The Lyttelton Port Company has taken a punt on Cardinal’s Jade object-oriented development environment for its new Harbour Management System (HMS).
While Jade is as yet a rarity in commercial environments, the port’s technology group manager, Steve Sanderson, says the company was comforted by the fact that the developer — Cardinal Technologies — was local and support was close at hand.
“We wanted a relatively complex system for port management. We looked around the world unsuccessfully for something appropriate before deciding to build a customised system.”
The HMS replaces an unwieldy manual system of fax reports and phone calls used by pilots to inform the port of shipping movements and associated resource requirements.
Running on an NT-based LAN, it allows the company’s pilots to simply “drag-and-drop” ships on a virtual harbour displayed on their PCs. All the parties that need to know about shipping movements — such as linesmen, electricians and tug captains — are then automatically informed of any changes in schedules.
The next stage of the project will involve integrating the system with an extranet to allow shipping agents and liners to access the HMS via Internet connections.
“They will then be able to review updated arrival times for their ships and find out what berths they have been assigned to. And beyond that they will have the additional capacity to enter their own bookings for ships — to put in the proposed schedule, preferred berth, resources required and so on,” says Sanderson.
Stage two will also see the functionality of the system extended into modelling the capacity implications of increased shipping volumes, providing information that will be fed into broader financial and strategic planning exercises.
The HMS runs on a single NT server with around 20 PCs acting as clients. Redundancy is handled by Jade’s in-built recovery procedures — such as journalling and roll-back — as well as normal network backup systems.
“But the system is not mission-critical. We could afford to lose it for a couple of hours,” says Sanderson.
This hints at Jade’s main weakness in the enterprise market at present — it is limited to only NT and IBM RS/6000 platforms.
“We are looking forward to it being ported to more Unix flavours, because we run HP Unix here. When you start talking about wanting real speed and mission-critical systems, you’re really looking at Unix systems,” Sanderson says.
At Jade’s official launch earlier this year, there was talk of porting to other mainstream Unix systems, such as those from Hewlett-Packard and Sun. However, it seems Cardinal has now cooled on the idea.
“We have no plans to port to other versions of Unix at this stage,” says Cardinal Technologies’ managing director Mike White. “Jade was built for NT, and we decided initially to concentrate on one Unix platform. We chose the IBM RS/6000 mainly because of its SP architecture. Also, we know IBM is going to be there tomorrow. If you look at the other Unix vendors, who knows? Will HP be there tomorrow, or will it be bought by Sun, or what? At this stage, it is a matter of keeping focused on what our target machines are.”
For the port company, the main business benefits of the HMS stem from streamlined communications. “If you have a ship arriving and the scheduled arrival time changes, that has an impact throughout the port because of all the resources required — launches, tugs, linesmen and so on. Before this system was implemented, messages had to be sent out to the pilots, who then had to phone everyone to make sure they were aware of the change.