Digitalisation of Portsmouth International Port

Ferries Ferries at Portsmouth International Port. Image Portsmouth International Port

A new terminal operating system will improve efficiency at Portsmouth International Port, says Ulf Hille-Dahl, Sales Executive International Market at Hogia Logistics Systems AB.

Portsmouth International Port on the south coast of England is the second-largest cross-channel port in the UK, and offers more ferry routes than any other UK ferry port, serving popular destinations in France, Spain and the Channel Islands.

The port's ferry customers, Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries, transport over 250,000 freight units through the terminal each year.

The port provides the Gate-In and Gate-Out function on behalf of its two ferry customers. The freight terminal is open and operational 24/7 and the port is responsible for the security of the freight terminal, including access not only by hauliers, but also contractors working within the terminal, as well as other visitor types.

Portsmouth International Port awarded to Hogia the contract to supply a terminal operating system to digitalise the management of freight transport through the terminal thereby increasing the terminal’s efficiency.

Hogia started working on the digitalisation project with Portsmouth International Port in December 2018. The port had embraced digitalisation as one of its key strategies and was ready to take the first step towards digitalisation for the terminal operations.

Hogia, which has helped digitalise and increase efficiency in other ports, was geared to the needs of the Port. By March 2019, Portsmouth International Port was using the new
terminal operating system (TOS) from Hogia.


Hogia's TOS is a standard system that provides a shared platform for port staff and ferry operators, enabling the terminal operations to be managed digitally. It has an open interface and is easily integrated with third-party applications, such as the shipping companies' own booking systems.

The information held in TOS makes it easy to identify freight units arriving at the terminal gate and to assign the units to a known location on the terminal, the information being available, if desired, to port operations staff as well as to the ferry operators.

There were two primary factors for Portsmouth International Port to implement a new terminal operating system. Firstly, Brexit may require ports serving European destinations to have the capability to manage the throughput of freight digitally in order to maintain and expand the Port’s current freight capacity, including the ability to handle additional customs and border checks. Secondly, the Port’s existing terminal management system did not meet its developing operational and business management needs.


While addressing the immediate need to provide a modern and fully maintainable solution for Gate-In/Gate-Out and Yard Check purposes, the implementation of Hogia's TOS delivers several short-term and long-term efficiency benefits.

TOS enables the manifest data for vessels arriving and departing the port to be imported electronically into TOS, thereby saving operational staff several hours of manual data entry, and at the same time reducing the likelihood of error during the data entry process.

The Yard Check function also simplifies the task of checking and verifying unit locations on the terminal. In the past this was done through a manual reconciliation with the terminal operating system on completion of rounds. With TOS, operational staff check, validate and confirm unit locations via a portable hand-held device. The reconciliation with TOS is performed automatically, saving operational staff a significant amount of time.

TOS has also been integrated with the operator’s own booking system, enabling key Gate-In data to be presented to the ferry operator’s check-in staff, lowering the risk of error and reducing the check-in time.

The time that units spend on the terminal can be accurately measured, enabling the Port to levy parking charges against long-standing units, encouraging unit owners to collect their units promptly, thereby freeing up terminal space for other units.

‘Free-parking’ of both units and tractor units is also discouraged, thereby maximising the Port’s real-estate for the efficient throughput of freight. Existing users of Hogia TOS have reported that once staff become familiar with the system, their job satisfaction increases, as the drudgery of data entry and error finding and correction is significantly reduced, giving them time to focus on the important customer-facing aspects of their roles.

In the long term, there is the opportunity to extend TOS to provide further sustainable efficiency benefits. Through fuller integration of TOS with the ferry operator’s own booking and unit handling systems, data can be shared regarding the location of units on the terminal, thereby saving hauliers and stevedores time, fuel, engine & tyre wear, and frustration in locating units for pick-up or loading onto vessels.

Through integration with Border Control and Customs & Excise systems, units placed on hold by these organisations via their own systems can be instantly highlighted to the Gate-Out staff via TOS, without the need for physical paperwork transactions, thereby reducing the opportunity for errors and expensive delays to hauliers wanting to depart the port.

Through integration with hauliers’ own management systems, TOS can deliver additional efficiency benefits. It can advise hauliers when units have arrived on the terminal, and  when they are cleared by Customs and available for collection. This reduces the amount of time and therefore money that hauliers spend on the terminal waiting for units to be disembarked and cleared through customs, as well as facilitating the prompt collection of units from the terminal, thereby contributing to the maximising of freight throughput through the port.

Conversely, hauliers can pre-advise the port of when units will arrive at the terminal, including essential information such as whether a unit is carrying hazardous goods. On arrival at the terminal, the driver can use a barcode or QR-code sent to a mobile device to gain automatic access to the terminal via an automated barrier, or alternatively through entry of a key code provided to the driver on paper, or through the presentation of either electronic or paper-based ‘paper-work’ to Gate-In staff.

Hogia TOS will also enable the Port to more closely monitor its operations in real time through a variety of real-time effectiveness monitoring and reporting dashboards, such as:

-  Number of trucks/units on the terminal now
-  Total number of trucks/units on the terminal today
-  Average turnaround time of trucks per day
- Average turnaround time of trucks in the last hour
- Average turnaround time of trucks in the last month

This gives the port’s management and operations staff greater visibility on the daily effectiveness of terminal operations, and allows early intervention to prevent problems that would otherwise result in delays to hauliers and freight movements, port and port hinterland congestion, and delays to vessel sailings, all of which impact on the environment and safety.


Although the port is on the edge of the City of Portsmouth, with direct access to the strategic national road network, there is limited space for queuing heavy goods vehicles (HGV) both at Gate-In and Gate-Out. At Gate-In, even a small delay in HGVs gaining entry can result in queues developing back onto the main M275 motorway, causing disruption to the highway network.

As a result, an efficient and reliable Gate-In process is essential, and is now successfully underpinned by the current implementation of TOS, with the potential to further improve efficiency through the expansion of the system in the future.

Other efficiency benefits of TOS include a reduction in the time HGVs spend idling in queues, lowering emissions from the port, which will benefit its neighbours and the wider city. In addition, fewer unit, tractor and tug movements are needed as a result of deploying TOS, which increases safety at the terminal, alongside reducing the amount of fuel used and resulting in less tyre and engine wear.

Existing users of Hogia TOS have recorded up to a 33% reduction in fuel use, while at the same time achieving increased terminal throughput. We are looking forward to helping Portsmouth International Port to further expand the digitalisation of its port operations through creating automatic workflows, thereby increasing efficiency and throughput, enabling the port to develop and grow its business.

Mike Sellers, Portsmouth International Port’s director, says: “Using Hogia's terminal operating system (TOS) is the first step towards digitalisation for our terminal operations. It will make terminal operations more efficient, enable us to provide a higher quality of service for our customers, and provide a more competitive edge. Importantly TOS gives us more flexibility, paving the way for the future and securing the capacity we need to meet the growing demand for freight transport.”


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