Airline (and vessel) arrivals; hurry up and wait

Yes, readers, I am back from some work/vacation, mainly in south Florida, with the trip including some interesting aviation experiences. I know that my focus is maritime, but we’ll circle back to that shortly. Transport delays have been all over the news- actually my flight from Fort Lauderdale (“FLL”, which is near the top of the league tables for delays) landed on time at JFK Airport. But we sat for over an hour waiting for a gate; while the air conditioning was working fine, the passengers were all fuming. Before I could finish an impromptu email to the airline CEO (I often provide unsolicited feedback), an email came through announcing that I was getting a $50 credit. With ridiculous airfares, everything helps. I sense that the airline is trying to stay a step ahead of the Feds; with the U.S. Department of Transportation getting close to deploying actual penalties if objective guidelines ( concerning delays and cancellations) is exceeded.

While sitting on the plane, I did recall a project that I had heard of, called Blue Visby (with a tagline of “eradicating the practice of sail fast, then wait”). I promised myself that I would find out more about it, I can summarize my research here. Picking up on themes of Digitalization and Decarbonization, which are both very prevalent, the Blue Visby is a virtual consortium (now a very mainstream thing, exceeding the ability of industry associations in bringing together “stakeholders” from different sectors). Its members include some shipowners, cargo interests, law firms, some consultants (of course) and a technology provider. What’s on offer is an optimization algorithm, that can instruct vessels to slow down- so as to coordinate arrival times with actual availability of a berth. An interesting aspect is the ability to deal with “split incentives”; tied initially around responsibility for fuel costs on charters but, later on, keying in things like carbon credits (not yet). Berth scheduling involves a dizzying array of considerations- with demurrage, cargo trans-loading and other factors driving assignments for loading and discharging sequences; it’s not clear whether Blue Visby- set to launch some pilot projects in 2023, will get into these landside weeds (the stuff of “supply chain disruptions”). With their apparent commercial bent (one very big tanker pool is involved), hopefully they will.

Then we move on to carrots and sticks. The airline voluntarily paid me $50 because they knew, maybe, that if they didn’t, the US DOT might come down much harder on them. It remains to be seen what the US DOT can come up, but clearly they have instilled fear onto the carrier side with its sloppy scheduling. In the world of commercial vessel arrivals, I don’t see anything comparable. With various A,B,C,D,and E’s out there, I do see penalties (from regulators, and from charterers) for high fuel consumption and high emissions, but none these are linked to landside logistical considerations- at least that I can see. I am not sure that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), or various A-B-C folks, think in those terms.

In reading up on Blue Visby, I came across another consortium worth mentioning, which is the Smart Maritime Network (SMN)- which has a very impressive list of members, drawn from the equipment side, Class, legal, and, importantly, some prominent shipowners. The team running SMN were affiliated with a magazine and conference organizer that I used to write for (on maritime technology subjects!) in the early days of the maritime internet. The SMN mission, which I am paraphrasing, is ultimately to provide some common-sense reality to the industry generally on data sharing and collaboration. In the vast D&D free-for-all (Digitalization and Decarbonization, not the Demurrage and Detention surrounding containers), there is certainly room for cooperation across sectors, with the various consortia hopefully whispering some useful ideas to the regulators.