SILICON PORT: PART TWO: Find Your Mission Thread

Seven years ago, the technology requirements to serve the new post-Panamax ships, a more modern cruise terminal, an inland port, and interconnected systems with both public and private stakeholders was not part of the South Carolina Port Authority (SCPA) IT Strategic Plan. “Back then deciding which technology would replace the CISCO Line of site wireless system was a key project because the wireless signal loved to jump off metal. When container heights and stacking patterns changed, so did the strength of the signal. We solved that problem with a VIVATO solution, but when it came time to add and upgrade this technology, the company announced it was going out of business. We ultimately found Fidelity-Comtech, Inc. (FCI) a company with significant DoD experience, which saved SCPA over $1million in pole infrastructure, with a basketball size technology that could be placed at 100 feet for excellent connectivity. We didn’t know about them at first. We can’t ever be down and our SLAs are written to lower the risk of that happening.--- we will also have new challenges, and I could see a value of understanding what capabilities were are not tapping into from the DoD community,” said Pam Everitt, CIO. Information Technology, SCPA. Fast forward to 2020 and the Port of Charleston may become one of the most significant ports on the East Coast if the strategic thinking and current momentum for the actual Silicon Port vision continues at its current pace. Currently, it is the only port in the Southeast servicing the new post-Panamax ships. 52% of container capacity will come from post-Panamax ships. It is a glimpse at the future that is yours to grab if you can define the mission thread in operational terms and match your strengths to a process which can be improved.
At one point, the risk was higher that the SCPA would build it and the big ships, people, and containers would not come. The momentum has changed this year. Political, financial, environmental, and technological uncertainties have transformed into milestones driving cargo growth, infrastructure development, productivity and efficiency, financial stability, and security. The post-panamax ships are coming here now, said Bill McLean, SVP of Operations, SCPA. “The economics are too good to ignore.” The projection for 2020 is roughly 3.1 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). At the time of this article, SCPA volume for FY2013 was 1.6 million TEUs representing an 8% increase compared to FY2012.The warehouse renovation that will become the new cruise ship terminal has yet to start, and it will require an entire IT infrastructure to be designed and installed. The Inland Port opened for operation on October 15, 2013. The new 8000 TEU post-Panamax ships are already rerouting through the Suez Canal and coming to the Port of Charleston’s Wando terminal, with as much as 50% more capacity available to these shipping lines by 2018 once the new terminal at the old Navy base is complete. The $2 billion budget is part of a 10-year strategic plan for the expansion at the Port of Charleston. What is needed to ensure the transportation efficiencies and resiliency in both the physical infrastructure and the systems which support stakeholders involved in an aspect of the Port business? Some have boldly suggested that a System of Systems (SoS) engineering approach ---- a concept very familiar to many a SPAWAR incumbent---- is But would it work here, in Charleston? Consider applicable SoS milestones: autonomy, connectivity, belonging, diversity, emergence, and the net-centric missions of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the USCG, and the SCPA each tackling their own missions and all collaborating to maximize throughput of cargo and people, reduce environmental impacts, and provide security needed for today, while forging ahead with innovation suitable for tourism and commerce growth. ,. For example, CBP partners with numerous federal, state and local agencies as well as the maritime and trade communities to ensure safety and security. According to Joanne Fogg, Assistant Port Director for CBP, “Each of us plays a role in the larger context of 'port security'. Collectively, we strive to ensure a seamless approach to addressing security situations at the port as they occur. Information sharing amongst agencies is critical in today’s world in order to ensure threats are identified and mitigated appropriately. We receive the manifest 24 hours in advance and screen it for threat levels and prioritize next level screening such as Port side radiation scans.” "Much of our work is assisted through the use of cutting-edge mobile technologies. As evidenced by the numerous trade journals, expos and product fairs, many companies are actively researching and developing products that can be utilized by CBP to better perform our mission. You can see some of that in use at various locations around the country. Whatever a product’s ultimate benefit is, it must be matched up with a better trained officer or agriculture specialist. Advances in technology and tools benefit us greatly, but a properly trained and motivated employee is our number one asset. The more ways we can look at information, the better our decisions,” said Robert Fencel, Customs and Border Protection, Port Director. Looking ahead from the SCPA point of view, one of the biggest challenges is finding companies that understand our requirements as a Port Authority operating in a global supply chain where a single point of contact and a single system does not exist. Determining how best to accommodate stakeholder desire for visibility into one another’s’ systems is another challenge, and it brings with it concerns about security and decision about control vs. autonomy of applications We thought we did that when we went out with two RFQs released locally 2 years ago—one for software development to create the next generation Orion system. This very mature system used to share data with customers though separate from our internal Yard Management System (YMS) was so close integrated that it required us to look at interoperability issues. We ultimately determined that we needed a new portal with changes to the backend and architecture that spanned several legacy applications and business processes. Unfortunately the Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products for the external system were not a good fit for this emergent requirement, and we had to terminate that contract. What we learned is that Systems are highly customized, not easily transferrable from 1 port to the next and COTS typically are painful to force fit port operations.” -Pam Everitt
SCPA brought the YMS system in-house with development support to an oversea company with a lot of ort management systems experience and a long history with the County of Charleston. As part of a soft roll out, SCPA customers are currently able to review static data views that support the change from a cyclical chain link handling of information to the new interrelationships of the global information supply chain. The other RFP was for hosting management of ORION. The legacy application is currently hosted in New York and the company manages the IBM software, while SCPA programmers make minor modifications until the new system is fully developed and available. McLean, who recently spoke about the SCPA’s technology innovations at the AFCEA annual membership meeting in Charleston, said, “When we are done with the replacement system for ORION and YMS, we will have created a centralized portal for all customers, shipping lines, cargo owners, freight forwarders, truckers, logistics operations, buyers in the local community and around world . The goal is to provide anyone in the shipping chain with the ability to see what pertains to them." The new system will be complemented with existing systems such as the Virtual On-Dock Rapid Rail service that SCPA provides to customer. Rapid Rail dispatches trucking companies to pick up loaded containers from the port (which we get from the steamship lines), so the truckers always pick up loaded containers from SCPA. The SCPA coordinates the data management and transaction flows and coordinates the public and private sector systems. “Following a best in class model, smaller customers will be given the same service as large customers; specifically, the system will allow an importer in Iowa see its cargo from Charleston to a distribution in Spartanburg—which is a level of visibility that was previously available to local, niche businesses and brokers,” said McLean. “We have a great relationship with CBP and one of the ways they are helping SCPA grow Inland Port efficiencies is agreeing to clear cargo at the marine terminals, while maintaining jurisdiction at Inland Port, said McLean “To that point, Robert Fencel, Customs and Border Protection, Port Director stated, “CBP continuously looks for ways to improve our processes to better facilitate the flow of legitimate travel and trade. The port of Charleston is seeing growth in both import and export of commercial goods and also in passenger travel. We anticipate additional growth and plan continually, adjusting our efforts to ensure that passengers and trade demands are accommodated while ensuring safety and security. We encounter cargo with headline-grabbing contents such as drugs and stow-a-ways. However, from a commerce standpoint, insect eggs on containers with invasive species impact the security of the region’s assets and economy in ways that rarely make the news. Each can easily affect businesses and consumers. From African Locusts to Asian Gypsy Moths to counterfeit products like NFL Jerseys and toothpaste, each can devastate our economy through agriculture loss, damage to company reputations and ultimately the loss of Charleston’s import/export business. We must be cognizant of the importance of each and balance our efforts," concluded Fencel. The Inland Port is a great asset to have in our toolbox,” continued McLean. “It will only handle about 2% of the capacity from the Port, but the efficiencies give the Port of Charleston a competitive edge against other East Coast ports, which will help now and when the Panama Canal expansion is complete in 2015. We just completed a test using the Inland Port with a manufacturing plant that measured the efficiency by the interval between the time the component was offloaded from the ship to their SAP system. The Inland Port will continue to demonstrate ways to lower cost and risk and improve performance,” he concluded. • The SCPA plans to have all the same systems at the maritime terminals and Inland Port. The inland Port may also become a test bed for new automation technologies that could be integrated at the new terminal on the old Navy base. Considering the fact that this Marine terminal may be the last one built by SCPA, the strategic vision includes looking at ways to maximize efficient use of a small amount of space. Container shipping is about economies of scale, and the gains that the US East Coast could bring were limited until now. Preliminary results show the Port of Charleston as a game changer in this industry by 2018-2019. Will you be part of it this growth spurt? Is your company providing a service to the public or private sector in the Port of Charleston/Inland Port? • Do you have an idea on how Port Stakeholders can become more aware of DOD contractors with transferrable skills to Port expansion and service? Comment on this article and let others know what you know. By Jody Smith, PMP, S.E. Business Development Manager, Imagine One Technology and Management, Ltd.