Stolt Tankers, Dow, SGS and Vopak IIA Partner on Project to Boost Supply Chain Efficiency in U.S.

Member Updates,

Stolt Tankers, Dow Inc., SGS, and Vopak IIA Freeport, joint venture between Vopak and BlackRock, have partnered on a successful project in the U.S. to reduce the time ships spend in port. Initial results have seen port time reduced by an average of almost two hours and an increase in the efficiency with which cargo is transferred to customers.

The four stakeholders formed the “Time Alongside Optimization Project” to improve supply chain collaboration and efficiency and reduce the time that ships are berthed at a terminal. Improving berth efficiency is particularly significant for chemical tankers because they often call at multiple terminals in a given region and delays at one can impact shipping companies, terminals and customers in all other locations. 

Stolt Tankers, Dow Inc., SGS and Vopak IIA Freeport saw the mutual benefit in working together and sharing their learnings to allow ships to rotate faster through each berth, so terminals can process more ships and customers receive their products faster. 

Throughout the project, the partners jointly reviewed existing processes, procedures and current time alongside data to identify individual strengths, weaknesses and causes for delays and then apply a more robust universal approach. To date, this has involved setting up standardized processes and communication channels and laying the groundwork for future joint digitalization efforts. 

The new approach was tested on Stolt Tankers’ ships at Vopak IIA Terminal Freeport in the U.S. from May to December 2023, and non-cargo transfer time alongside reduced on average by two hours per ship. This allowed Vopak to process more Stolt Tankers ships (a total of 62) and reduce demurrage on these ships by approximately 124 hours in total over the eight-month period. This project is continuing Vopak IIA Terminal Freeport and a sister project is now underway at the Vopak Eurotank Terminal in Belgium. 

“All the project stakeholders bring unique knowledge and expertise to this project, as well as a shared desire to keep our operations safe, efficient and increasingly sustainable. The interim results of our collaboration are promising, and the team is committed to driving further improvements,” said Captain Petr Kontush, Stolt Tankers’ port captain in Houston.  “The plan now for all parties involved is to use the standardized process we have jointly developed to continue to improve activities and processes onboard ships and at Vopak IIA Terminal Freeport and share our findings and learnings with other terminals in the US and in the other regions worldwide.”

"The sustainability and business targets we have in front of us demand that we operate in new and more efficient ways. This project represents the type of transparent cross-industry collaboration that holds the key to unlocking new levels of efficiency and savings," said Lance Nunez, global marine and terminal logistics director at Dow Inc.  

John Woodward was Gulf Coast regional director – natural resources, oil gas & chemicals commodities at SGS during the initial phase of the project. He said: “I was impressed with the communication and collaboration among the project participants. The open dialogue and honest evaluations of various situations was needed to meet the targets on which we had so much focus.”

“This initiative is evidence of what happens when you bring together a team of people and companies with diverse skill sets and experiences to achieve a common goal. The cross-functional knowledge was instrumental in providing a ‘fresh eyes’ review of each company’s work processes,” Cristhian Perez, President of Vopak IIA. “We are proud of the team that took this challenge to heart and their willingness to question the status quo. These results are an impressive step forward in the sustainability sector and will aid our customers in their cost-reduction efforts while maintaining a safety-first mindset for our operations."

Photo courtesy of Stolt Tankers.