DOING more with less is an emerging container industry theme as terminal operators 'aggressively attack costs', according to Navis vice president Mark Welles.
'Terminals are making the small or large changes they need to keep their businesses moving ahead against the challenges from consolidation on the carrier side,' he told London's Loadstar.
This includes increasing use of automation to drive incremental changes that improve operational efficiency, whether waterside or at the terminal gate.
'Some terminals are handling more volume, but in some markets the revenue per TEU is decreasing - or not increasing the way it used to - so they're having to manage their business in a different way,' said Mr Welles.
'That efficiency drive has two parts: one is to be the better service provider [than regional port competitors]; but also to reduce your costs, which therefore either gives you more flexibility on the commercial side, or it means you're a more profitable business,' he said.
Mr Welles, also Navis general manager for the Asia Pacific regions, was visiting to the Qingdao New Qianwan Container Terminal (QQCTN), which uses Navis N4, the port software specialist's flagship terminal operating system (TOS).
'Full automation is working well for them and helping to set the stage for what's possible in China and Asia, in terms of the success they've had,' he said.
Oakland-based Navis has worked with ports to implement around 120 software 'go-lives' at terminals around the world over the past two years.
The port of Tianjin managed to install N4 at six terminals in less than 12 months, a feat Mr Welles described as 'almost unheard of'.
The faults of a weak TOS was experienced recently at Felixstowe. The installation of an in-house TOS led to prolonged operational interruptions and subsequent diverted vessel calls, said Loadstar. The resulting supply chain disruption - which was at first contained to UK ports - has now spread to northern Europe.
It appears that Hutchison, the Hong Kong port group that runs Felixstowe, was bucking a trend with the decision to develop its own TOS, said Loadstar.
'It's fair to say, from a macro-level, over the past five years we've seen more and more of the regional and global terminal groups partnering with an experienced solutions provider to 'buy don't build',' said Mr Welles.