Container stowage in centralised hubs

One of the readers of this blog asked below question about container stowage in centralised hubs..

image for reader questionContainer ships are nowadays stowed in centralized hubs

  1. Why are they stowed centralized?
  2. Where can one find the biggest planning, operations and stowage planning centers across the world?
  3. Is Singapore ultimate number one?

There are several reasons that the stowage activities have been centralized..

In the past, before E-mails and internet became popular, the stowage planners (including me) in the shipping agents offices at port of load used to

  • manually prepare the stowage profile of the ship (yes we could do that)
  • fax (remember the fax machine !!!!!) it to the shipping line’s controlling office overseas or
  • discuss locally with the port and the ship’s Chief Officer before commencement of container loading

how stowage planning worksHowever, the increase in ship sizes, and improvements in port productivity placed pressure and emphasis on quicker turnaround of the ships in ports..

Technological advances such as E-mails, Internet, Broadband, WI-FI on ships helped the shipping lines communicate and share information including stowage plans more effectively between the port of load, transhipment ports, port of discharge and the ship, and this was one of the main factors that allowed shipping lines to create centralised hubs for stowage planning..

Central hubs are able to have a birds eye view of the full voyage and compile the information relating to the number of containers loading ex each port, the weights involved, special equipment space requirements (like hazardous cargo, out of gauge cargo, reefer cargo etc) and calculate the optimum usage of the ships capacity and where required warn the ports and operational desks if the forecasted volumes ex their ports cannot be accommodated..

This helps the operations desks at the various countries to keep their port advised in advance of the number of crane requirements, any special cargo handling requirements (like direct discharge etc) so that the port, the operation desk, the stevedores, transporters all are ready before the ship even arrives at the port..

Such real time discussions gives the shipping line better control over stowage planning and assists in quicker turn around of the ships and maintain schedule reliability.. This also indirectly helps the ports enhance their performance and productivity..

Nowadays there are several stowage planning software available that can churn out stowage plans in a couple of minutes based on the container data inputs provided and only a few people are required in the centralised hubs to control many ships and locations simultaneously..

Most of the major shipping lines have regional and global stowage planning hubs depending on their services.. For example,

  • MSC –  Italy
  • Hanjin – Korea
  • Hapag Lloyd – Germany, Singapore
  • CMA-CGM – France, Malaysia

There are several articles relating to Stowage on this blog.. Click here to read them all..

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