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RTF in Focus of a Baltic Sea Forum Roundtable

RTF in Focus of a Baltic Sea Forum Roundtable

Published: August 31, 2019

Baltic Sea Forum: pioneer of modern IT in the Baltic Sea ferry traffic. The topic of the discussion was how to improve real time information sharing for the benefit of all users. RTF, the Real Time Ferries Project, was presented in the view of a particpating large freight ompany and of Project manager Professor Doctor-Engineer Nina Vojdani, The existing IT-Tools in Connection to the Rostock-Gedser line were also demonstrated.

You hardly believe it: hundreds of ships of all kinds cross the small sea area every day on the densely navigated Baltic Sea, many of them ferries for cars, trucks or for entire trains. Ferry traffic is virtually the backbone of Baltic Sea shipping, ensuring unhindered traffic of people and goods, thus contributing to the prosperity of this region, which characterizes the countries bordering the Baltic Sea.

However, the operational communications of ships, shipowners and ports does not meet the standards of the 21st century; data on departure and arrival times or on their divergences are exchanged merely by telephone and fax, e.g. Malfunctions and failures can never be ruled out, in best case they are taught to direct partners like ports, but hardly to truck and car drivers, warehousemen and dispatchers. This costs time and money, generates frustration and unnecessary empty runs, waiting times and the like. Worse: Connecting traffic could be missed, in days of just-in-time a painful blemish.

An intolerable situation. Reason enough for the EU to take prompt action in the context of its regional development programs “Interreg” and to launch the sub-project “Real Time Ferries” RTF. Since spring 2017, work is underway under this headline. The 22 partners from eight countries form a typical EU project. Coordination and control are done by the University of Rostock; the budget of roughly 5 million euros must reach the end of the project in autumn 2020.

According to the project structure, the Baltic Sea Forum BSF is responsible for the political shield. Therefore it invited partners from the managing university of Rostock, from forwarders, shipping companies and port representatives as well to an expert discussion in Lübeck, one of the most important Baltic Sea ports. The timing at the end of the summer holydays marks halftime for the project approximately, best condition for interesting participants and good response. So many with rank and name in the ferry traffic scene of the Baltic Sea met in the old Hanseatic City on the Trave.

One of the large freight companies operating in the Baltic Sea region – it alone moves more than 70,000 transport units per year to and from the bordering Sea states, ie about 200 units a day – presented the improvement status quo and its deficits on the “test relation” Rostock-Trelleborg. Over the year at least 350,000 passengers, 78,000 cars, 700 buses and 57,000 trucks are counted on this test track; rail cars will come soon in addition. Accordingly, 3 to 4 large ferry vessels alternate between both ports every day, one every three hours. For so much traffic, even rather smaller divergences may have unattractive consequences.

Here, the real-time IT designed in the form of an APP should provide more effectiveness and predictability. The company expects the project to “provide the real-time information on cancellations and delays (…) with RTF ” and forward them to the customers. In the same way, another mayor freighter presented the situation on the rather shorter route Rostock-Gedser. This company was able to present the first IT tools to the auditorium already.
The controlling head of the University of Rostock of the project on the whole is personified by Ms. Prof Dr.-Ing. Nina Vojdani (Production Organization and Logistics). In Lübeck, she gave a general overview of the current situation in the Baltic Sea traffic, its value and the complexity of the structures (see the graphic below from her presentation). The work will last long.

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