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Evaluation of Benefits and Barriers for Virtual Arrival Navigation Systems-


Virtual arrival systems help vessel operators align their arrival times with berth availability by informing them during transit of anticipated delays at their destination port. This allows for more efficient slow steaming operations while in transit and reduces or eliminates wait times and corresponding offshore hoteling emissions at anchorage. Virtual Arrival can also improve shore-side, cargo-handling operations by providing more accurate vessel arrival data based on real time automatic identification system (AIS) data to ensure the appropriate cargo handling equipment (CHE) are in place.


A better understanding of Virtual Arrival, regarding its potential benefits to vessel operators, charter agencies, terminal operators, and port vessel traffic managers, including an assessment of requirements (e.g., data sources, communications methods, etc.) and barriers to implementation (contractual issues, satellite coverage concerns for AIS tracking, etc.) which could help stakeholders appreciate this approach to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and shipping costs within travel time constraints. The objective of this study is to develop a white paper that would a summarize anticipated advantages and issues related to using Virtual Arrival for heavily congested ports.


Anticipated benefits include:

· Reduction in transit fuel consumption;

· Reduction in emissions;

· Reduction or elimination of time spent at anchorage;

· More accurate arrival times;

· Optimization of vessel utilization;

· Reduction in port vessel congestion;

· Ability to reroute vessel during extreme weather events;

· Reduction in shipping costs; and

· Less underwater noise.

Related Research:

: A pilot Virtual Arrival program developed by Intertanko and OCIMF has been implemented for tankers that transit from Batumi on the Black Sea to the Isle of Grain in the UK.

The European Union has funded several projects related to the similar concept of "Sea Traffic Management" (STM) which is intended to "connect and update the maritime world in real time, with efficient information exchange. Through data exchange among selected parties such as ships, service providers and shipping companies, STM is creating a new paradigm for maritime information sharing offering a practical digital data infrastructure for shipping. STM-services allow personnel on-board and on shore to make decisions based on real-time information. These services enable more just-in-time arrivals, slow steaming, reduced administrative burden and decreased risk related to human factors. Example of services are: Route optimization, ship-to-ship route exchange, enhanced monitoring, port call synchronization, and winter navigation."

The European Union has also funded a project on the inland waterways of Europe called "Corridor Management" with goals similar to those of Virtual Arrival. It is built upon the existing River Information Services (RIS) concept as defined by PIANC.

Note, there could be a shared interest in this project with the Port & Channels Committee, Transportation Energy Committee and Transportation and Sustainability Committee.


The following guidance is not intended to be comprehensive, but as a general guide to what might be necessary to successfully develop this white paper summary:

· General description of the Virtual Arrival process;

· Required changes to navigational infrastructure to support Virtual Arrival;

· Identification of information and technology needs to support Virtual Arrival;

· Legal/contractual barriers to implementing Virtual Arrival;

· Anticipated reduction in fuel consumption, emissions, and shipping costs;

· Methods to calculate fuel savings and emission reductions, based on ship operations with and without virtual arrival, including example calculations;

· Reduction in time spent at anchorage and port related air quality impacts;

· Improving dockside efficiency through provision of more accurate arrival times that could better coordinate CHE support;

· Improved vessel utilization by reducing the time a vessel spends waiting for a berth;

· Reduction in port vessel congestion though better scheduling of vessel arrivals;

· Ability to reroute vessels during extreme weather events;

· Reduction in underwater noise; and

· Potential impact to local communities and consumers.


Agencies such as the EPA, state environmental agencies, port authorities with significant vessel congestion problems, shipping and port associations, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and consultants, may find the results of this study particularly useful when evaluating strategies to reduce emissions, improve fuel consumption and enhance port efficiency.

TRB could play a critical role in the development, peer review and promotion of this study.


As marine cargo traffic is anticipated to increase it is expected that port vessel congestion will also increase, which will, in turn, increase the number of vessels waiting at anchorage for available berths. Virtual Arrive informs vessel operators of delays in the availability of open berths. This information will allow vessels to reduce their transit speed, arriving in port around the time the anticipated berth is available. By reducing their speed while underway, time spent idling at anchorage would be reduced while significantly reducing fuel consumption. Given that fuel represents 50 to 60% of a vessel’s operating expense, optimizing fuel usage rates can reduce costs to the operator and shipping rates to consumers as well. As less fuel will be combusted, there would be a proportionate reduction in emissions.

Sponsoring Committee:AW030, Marine Environment
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Richard Billings
Source Info:EPA SmartWay and Port Initiatives, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Intertanko and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).
Date Posted:07/10/2019
Date Modified:08/07/2019
Index Terms:Arrivals and departures, Navigation systems, Berth utilization, Docking,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Marine Transportation
Data and Information Technology
Operations and Traffic Management

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