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Supertanker - Super Savings: Running a Tight Ship with Automated Dock Scheduling

Liquid bulk shipping requires complex planning and scheduling. For many oil, gas and chemical companies, getting the business in shape to manage incoming and outgoing shipments drives competitive edge. As prices fluctuate on a daily basis, understanding the options on large crude oil vessels and having up-to-date market information is vital when bidding on spot cargo to accurately schedule your fleet. Being able to take all unassigned ships to a legal berth, with all constraints considered, is a logistic and economic challenge. So, how can companies maximize profitability and avoid unnecessary demurrage costs?

Supertanker – Super Savings: Running a Tight Ship with Automated Dock Scheduling

Scheduling jetty logistics presents many issues, including determining a program of delivery dates at specific ports and their associated tank farms. Where traditional static spreadsheets can be inefficient, automated scheduling software simultaneously aligns the schedule and helps companies to easily manage shipments and feedstock receipts from the refinery gates right down to the docks - the perfect one-stop-shop for ship-shape scheduling.

Overcoming tradition

The majority of the world’s crude oil is transported by tankers and barges from producing regions like the Middle East and Africa through to refineries in Europe, Asia and the United States. The majority of supertankers are not owned by oil companies. Instead, they are chartered from transportation companies, which specialize in operating these super-sized vessels. Consequently, operating modern tankers efficiently requires each vessel to be at sea for extended periods of time with only short intervals in port to load or unload cargo. Hence, avoiding unnecessary demurrage charges is essential to optimize dock scheduling.

Dock scheduling is traditionally a complicated task requiring the scheduler to ensure an available berth upon which the vessel can dock and also that the dock has a pipeline line-up to the correct tanks, accounting for the physical characteristics of the dock in relation to the ship’s DWT, beam, loading arm height, etc., and for its cargo to be compatible with the dock.

Approximately 60 percent of the world’s refineries are waterborne and 50 percent of all crude oil and petroleum products are transported via waterborne vessels. These tankers arrive at the docks of refineries and unload or load cargo destined for a specific customer. The ships are typically owned by a third party and chartered for each voyage. As part of that charter agreement, the chartering party commissions the use of the ship for a specified period of time. If the hiring company exceeds this agreement, the vessel’s owner charges demurrage. This demurrage is an opportunity charge imposed on the leasing company. The largest of these very large crude carriers can make a profit in excess of $60,000 per day. The resulting costs will rapidly erode profits for the refiner. Therefore, managing their loading and unloading facilities efficiently is vital to optimize the entire process.

For many companies, the scheduling process is inefficient. Terminal or refinery schedulers often use traditional printed copies of dock schedule that quickly become out of date leading to serious issues, including containment issues, product downgrades, delayed shipments, undesired crude blending, berth availability and much more. In doing so, dock schedulers focus on short-term feasibility and may ignore demurrage reduction opportunities. With this in mind, it is imperative that refiners remove inefficiencies between the refinery and the dock in order to maintain competitiveness.

Integrating the refinery operation

By empowering planners to create actionable plans with appropriate tools they can take full account of vessel, hatch capacity and last cargo restrictions. Essentially, with automated scheduling software, schedulers can minimize cleaning costs and delays whilst maximizing capacity utilization.

When tools like Excel are used for dock scheduling, they effectively become disconnected static solutions and do not provide visibility to storage capability, product availability, physical constraints and demurrage charges. The latest cutting-edge automated scheduling software, however, significantly improves liquid bulk carrier planning. Scheduling automation is the main link between an optimal plan and implementing an efficient operational execution. A notable part of the scheduler’s job is to execute the plan profitably whilst respecting refinery constraints – against the backdrop of a dynamic environment and increasingly complex supply chains.

Oil companies can now easily automate dock scheduling by taking all unassigned ships and automatically assign each to a legal berth taking into account the constraints and economic feasibility, as well as the physical characteristics of both ships and berths.

Cutting-edge automated petroleum scheduling software provides a multi-user environment and can deliver refinery-wide visibility into the schedule for multiple users, enabling better collaboration among schedulers and other departments. The dock screens extend the scheduling envelope past the refinery gates down to the docks, essentially decreasing any disconnect between refinery operations and logistics to operate closer to the optimum refinery plan.

By implementing leading petroleum scheduling software tools, schedulers can align the schedule with logistics to easily accommodate berth availability, physical constraints and available products and storage. Typically, features embedded in the software enable staff to easily manage incoming and outgoing shipments, while automatically creating and updating events in the refinery schedule. These dock scheduling functionalities allow schedulers to monitor demurrage costs while simultaneously maintaining schedule feasibility for the refinery’s crude runs, product blends and unit operations.

To reiterate, the best petroleum scheduling tools provide flexible automated dock scheduling benefits. They avoid disconnect between refinery operations and dock operations, reduce demurrage costs by as much as $60,000 per day for a single supertanker, eliminate product downgrades and unplanned blends, better align the refinery schedule with logistics, eliminate the need for spreadsheets that are inadequate for managing dock operations, easily manage incoming and outgoing shipments all the way down to the docks, automate assignments and line flushing, and enable the user to specify which materials are allowed at each berth and the different physical constraints (i.e. draft, beam, length, etc.)

Super savings

By improving the scheduling of dock operations and integrating the refinery schedule, companies can realize millions of dollars annually in benefits. The tide has turned for many refiners who have the opportunity to integrate refinery operation with dock scheduling. Static spreadsheets are simply outdated tools for the job and cost refineries big money in the long run resulting in lower refinery margins. Automated dock scheduling software is the charter of choice when it comes to ensuring ships dock on the clock. The ability to quickly and easily update events across the refinery schedule down to the docks allows for better collaboration and more informed profitable decision making. For oil, gas and chemical companies today, the message is simple – you now have the opportunity to shape up or ship out.

Source: AspenTech

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