Our website is best experienced using Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla FireFox, and Apple Safari.



Five ways this cargo container port is using data to drive efficiencies and power automation



  • Oversee and control remote machinery
  • Automate supply chain management
  • Transform safety

In the maritime industry, a container terminal or port is where cargo containers are moved between different vehicles (ships, trucks, trains) for onward transportation.

Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) in Melbourne, Australia is like no other port in the world. It's quiet. The automated operation is working purposefully to load and unload vessels and trucks remotely from an air-conditioned office, resulting in a seamless operation from ship to shore.

Jon Wheeler, data visionary and IT manager, says, "Our terminal is just 35 hectares, and yet through complete automation we can manage a capacity of over 1 million twenty-foot equivalents (TEUs) per year. Plus, our truck turnaround times are more than twice as fast as nonautomated facilities." In an industry where every second is a dollar, this creates a strong competitive advantage. And it all comes down to five winning strategies that use the power of data.

Think outside the box

Liberating data means liberating your ideas. For Jon Wheeler, that meant redesigning the typical container terminal. "Most facilities place their crane operators at the dockside with a line of sight to the vessels and vehicles. But with reliable real-time data, there's no need. We built our control room 1.2 kilometers away. From there our operators control cranes with complete visibility on the loading dock, using 13 live camera feeds on each crane. Remote control is only possible with highly reliable video feeds. We use NetApp flash technology for real-time data for CCTV, which enables operators to view this data without any latency whatsoever, which is absolutely imperative to business operation." To support continual innovation, VICT is also using HCI running Hyper-V for its lab environment. According to Wheeler, "It simplifies management and speeds up dev/test cycles, providing a fast and efficient way of delivering products to our end users."

Work holistically—that's where the real value of data lies

Extracting the real value of data means thinking beyond one to multiple datasets and linking them. Wheeler has integrated data to speed up the transit of vehicles and goods by creating an end-to-end automated process. "From validating and directing trucks via OCR (optical character recognition), to operating cranes and machinery, we have been able to build one of the most advanced container terminals in the world. We've done this by combining the gate operating system and the terminal operating system that sit on our NetApp infrastructure into one efficient system that's quick and easy to use."

Build on a rock

"Automation comes down to three attributes," says Wheeler. "Reliability, consistency, and resiliency. Operating in a 24/7 environment with the need to fail over and undertake patch management means we cannot have any downtime. We are fully reliant on terabytes of data." Having used NetApp in a previous terminal, Wheeler felt confident to move ahead with NetApp® FlexPod® as its full production environment. Wheeler says, "Data turnover for us is very quick, so we need a system that moves data to end users very efficiently, wherever they are. With NetApp, we've been able to run a fully automated container terminal on two racks of infrastructure. And because it's so reliable we haven't had a single issue since we started 18 months ago. That's quite an achievement in our industry. We're now looking at extending this level of reliability to other terminals in our group and around the world, and we'll be using NetApp technology to do so."

Collaborate and use analytics to evolve best practices

Being at the leading edge of an industry opens the opportunity to work with the ecosystem to refine and improve performance and functionality. Wheeler and his team have been able to assist third-party vendors in honing their products through data analytics. Wheeler explains, "Every second counts in an automated facility. Right now, we are operating about 20 gross moves per hour. Our aim is 30." With NetApp technology, VICT can analyze and share data on every movement in the short cranes, the flight of the spreader for landside to waterside, and its automated container system. By analyzing patterns in the control data, VICT has helped the companies that use automation software to continually improve its own products. As a result, VICT has been able to introduce significant efficiencies.

Put human needs at the center of your planning

Wheeler emphasizes that one of the key benefits of automation has been its impact on people. Stevedoring is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and when accidents happen, they are often grave. Right from the start, the IT team at VICT designed the solution to support a working environment that was pleasant, and above all safe. Wheeler explains, "By automating the facility, we can keep people away from cranes and from moving parts on our waterside and landside." Although the efficiency improvements more than justify the new automated container terminal, Wheeler says that his senior managers were always more focused on the safety improvements. He's proud to say that, "Since we started operation here, we've not had a serious accident." In an industry known for a physically demanding workplace, automation allows a more diverse workplace and has attracted women crane operators.

Learn how to transform with data.

Victoria International Container Terminal is the first fully automated international container terminal in the southern hemisphere, and one of the most advanced container facilities in the world. It operates a 35-hectare terminal at the Port of Melbourne, with the ability to manage a capacity of 1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

< Back to Data Visionary Home