Barge Line Cuts Costs A n d Improves O p e r a t i n g Efficiency By Using Vessel M a n a g e m e n t System

The Vessel Monitoring System, one component of the complete Vessel Management System marketed by Vessel Management Systems Co., is a system which can pay for itself in as little as seven months, according to Christian Brinkop, vice president of river operations for American Commercial Barge Line Company (ACBL). Mr. Brinkop said, "We have found that VMS, in the stand-alone mode, without any of the other components we're talking about, has produced between a 3 percent and a 5 percent increase in fuel productivity aboard our vessels." According to Vessel Management Systems, the difference between VMS and other available systems is that it continuously monitors and analyzes many operating variables in addition to fuel consumption, such as ground speed, speed through water, channel depth, engine rpm and shaft rpm. It can also factor into its analysis trip data such as tow configurations, planned departure and arrival times, hourly operating costs, fuel costs and even barge drafts.

Another feature that attracted Mr. Brinkop to VMS was its flexibility.

"The people who developed it had done it from scratch so it was an easily adaptable system. They were willing to change to meet our needs." Today, ACBL has VMS on 30 vessels and will eventually have it on most vessels in their fleet.

Another component of the system has helped ACBL increase productivity at their Jeffersonville, Ind., offices. Called Traffic and Dispatch Manager (TDM), it is a computer program, run on a PC, that streamlines trip planning, scheduling and tow arrangement design for maximum efficiency. Mr. Brinkop reports that his managers, after some early hesitation, have found it to be a valuable cost-saving tool.

Mr. Brinkop also discussed the benefits of linking on-board and office systems together with WATERCOMR telephone, which is offered by Waterway Communications System, Inc., Jeffersonville, Ind. "With WATERCOM, I now have the ability to go out and retrieve that data and bring it in, in a real time mode, so I can make today's decisions using today's information," he said.

The on-board link Mr. Brinkop was referring to is the TRAP computer.

This ruggedized computer ties all shipboard information sources into one central area, which can be accessed by the office via VMS high-speed modem. The TRAP, unlike most PCs, can respond to several tasks concurrently.

This means that the captain can be entering deck log information, the VMS can be logging performance data, and the office can be sending/ exchanging information all concurrently.

By having computerized deck logs, crew logs, etc., running on the TRAP, the office has access to this information 24-hours-a-day, and since the data is already in "digital" form, the need to reenter that data on the office computer is eliminated.

Now, other departments can benefit from more efficient operations and through the gathering of timely information.

By combining "real time" data with accumulated historical information ACBL can respond quickly to business opportunities. Mr.

Brinkop gave a specific example.

"I know that today's gauge at Mephis is zero. I can go in there and say at zero on the gauge, if I want to bring up 20 loads out of New Orleans on an 8,400 horsepower boat, how long is it going to take me and what is it going to cost?' and in 30 seconds, I can get an answer." According to Mr. Brinkop, such an analysis would normally take eight hours of work, if you had an analyst free to do it immediately, an unrealistic assumption. "We're really looking at a week to answer the question and in a week, I don't need to make that decision because the Memphis gauge is either going to be -3 or + 5 and the barges are already going to be moved anyway." Mr. Brinkop and ACBL are pleased with the benefits of the Vessel Management System. "There's nothing else remotely like it," he said.

For free literature fully detailing the benefits and features of the Vessel Management System, Circle 34 on Reader Service Card

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 9,  Aug 1988

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