Until recently, relatively few people understood the vital role that ports and terminals play in the global supply chain. Since 2020, more of the public has experienced supply-chain disruptions—and come to appreciate the importance of smooth-running container shipping.
A growing number of ports and terminals are embracing digitization to address increasing challenges—from labor shortages to security threats. Indeed, my colleague Wei Zou has highlighted four ways that container shipping is going digital via terminal automation using a terminal operating system (TOS).
At La Spezia Container Terminal (LSCT), its TOS is at the heart of efforts to reduce downtime and increase productivity. One of the major port facilities in Europe, LSCT invested in an 802.11 Wi-Fi system for TOS Connectivity more than a decade ago. The solution featured 76 access points and supported nearly 200 pieces of equipment. Despite ongoing upgrades and tuning, the network was increasingly challenged to support the TOS. LSCT was losing minutes a day to equipment downtime. When drivers and crane operators couldn’t connect, they would have to find areas with more reliable Wi-Fi coverage.
“When you have multiple cargo containers stacked on top of one another, you’re essentially creating interferences in the Wi-Fi coverage,” said Stefano Lorenzini, Technical Department of La Spezia Container Terminal. “The terminal needed a reliable wireless solution that could accommodate for stacks of metal containers being constantly transported in and out of the port, something that typically obstructs Wi-Fi connectivity.”
Beyond those challenges, LSCT leadership was concerned about the limits of 802.11 Wi-Fi for operational technology (OT) solutions. Issues such as packet loss during roaming, high latency to vehicles, and jitter are severe challenges in automation applications involving video or control. The port needed the right foundation for advanced automation solutions today and in the future.
With those goals in mind, LSCT deployed Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul (formerly FluidMesh) and Cisco Industrial Wireless 3702 Access Point. Working in parallel with the port’s existing WiFi system, the IoT network creates a low latency roaming wireless backbone. This network is ideal for connecting all “on-the-move” assets—including ship-to-shore cranes, rubber-tyred gantry cranes, stacking cranes, reach stackers, and terminal tractors.
Using Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul, La Spezia Container Terminal has radically improved its wireless network—without a full network replacement. For more details, read the full story about LSCT’s continuing journey to port automation. To explore how this approach can be applied to other ports and terminals, check out our Ports and Terminals Design Guide.
Check out Cisco’s full suite of IoT solutions for ports and terminals, and watch as IDC, Malta Freeport Terminals and Cisco IoT experts discuss trends, challenges, and solutions for boosting throughput and efficiency for ports and terminal operations.
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