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Shipping logistics with event processing

Shipping logistics with event processing

July 13, 2010 0 Comments

On Friday last week I visited Progress customer, Royal Dirkzwager, in the Netherlands. It’s nice to be able to talk about a customer publically - Dirkzwager have been a generous public reference for some time. This was my first visit to their head office in Maassluis, near Rotterdam, and it gave me a new insight into their business. Dirkzwager’s offices are right on the main entrance to the port of Rotterdam and it was great to be in their board room and watch the container ships move by as Paul Wieland, head of IT, took me through their business and what they are using Progress’ products for.

Dirkzwager is in the business of supplying information about shipping movements to the maritime industry. Its customers include the Port of Rotterdam, shipping companies and the logistics companies involved in supporting the ships and handling the goods. Dirkzwager currently supplies information on shipping movements at sea and in and out of ports from Le Havre in France to Denmark. Rotterdam is its epicentre - the biggest port in Europe and one of the biggest in the world, handling around 30,000 ships per year.  

Dirkzwager are users of the Sonic Enterprise Eervice Bus (ESB) and the Apama event processing platform. Sonic is used for delivering information to customers reliably and Apama is used for processing and analyzing the events reporting the positions of ships, up to several thousand per second. Live data is augmented with data from a reference database on tonnage, flag, crew, and lots of other information. Applications range from simple to more complex. One example is: “alert when a ship crosses this line”, to give an official port entry time (important for calculating harbour fees). A more complex example is the calculation of an actual time of arrival, using course, speed, weather conditions and historical information about the ship’s movements. This latter application can bring very significant benefits: on average, 50 companies are involved servicing a ship when it’s in port, from loading or unloading goods to servicing the radar. If these companies can receive more accurate information about a ship’s arrival time, they can optimize their operations resulting in the whole supply chain becoming more efficient – capacity is increased and costs are lowered. Paul gave some insight too into how Dirkzwager had become more efficient by using Apama to automate tasks that were previously done manually and in the process saving substantial amounts of money (the details of which, unfortunately, I can’t share here).

Dirkzwager’s industry is changing. Currently, most ships identify themselves by a VHF-radio system. This is shore based and has a range of approximately 60km. This is changing to a satellite based system which will give more continual and accurate reporting and also give simpler access to ship movements anywhere in the world (approximately 80,000 ships are in transit at any one time worldwide). This gives business expansion opportunities and also challenges when dealing with the new quantities of data that available. Paul Wieland clearly believes that complex event processing (CEP) is an ideal way for Dirkzwager to analyze this data and provide the monitoring of logistics and supply chain processes that they support for customers. Paul’s obviously a visionary – the room was buzzing with ideas. Now his team is experienced with Apama, Paul reported that people’s approach to problem solving had changed – they were thinking naturally about things in an event based way, both architecturally and in terms of data processing.

One might not necessarily think of shipping logistics as being the most innovative of industries, but Dirkzwager has always been at the forefront of technological innovation. Shipping was, and continues to be, vital to the Dutch economy. When the company was founded, in 1872, people used to stand at the opening of the port with binoculars. As a ship was sighted and recognized, someone would mount a horse and rush back to the port to report. Dirkzwager had the first commercial telephone line in the Netherlands. Paul showed me a room where some of the computing and communications equipment used previously by Dirkzwager is stored – examples include a megaphone, semaphore flags, telephones, telex machines and a mini computer. It was a mini museum for the communications industry. The use of event processing software is simply another step in this historical evolution.

Giles Nelson

View all posts from Giles Nelson on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.

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