How highly performant IT with 100% uptime keeps vessels sailing safely in Europe’s largest port

Case study
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Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in all weather and water conditions, 220 professional pilots stand at the ready. Their job is to help nearly 56,000 sea vessels a year sail safely to and from the port of Rotterdam-Rijnmond.

As Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam-Rijnmond is intensely trafficked and populated with terminals, refineries, and chemical factories. To ensure optimal accessibility of the port, sea vessels operating in this region are piloted by highly trained professionals who specialize in navigating the local waters.

Loodswezen is an independent organization that keeps maritime traffic smoothly running in and out of the Dutch and (partly) Flemish seaports. The organization is privately owned by the pilots who work for it and is legally appointed by the Dutch government to execute the compulsory pilotage for sea vessels.

To maximize the uptime for all mission-critical applications, Loodswezen sought to improve the resilience of various applications. These included applications for handling the radar and AIS data from the port; the planning of pilots and voyages; collaboration between the port authority and the port community system via a digital chain; coordination between nautical service providers, such as the port authorities, boatmen, and tug companies; and operational communication with ship agents.

Keeping maritime traffic running smoothly is a public responsibility. Vessel by vessel and sail by sail, Loodswezen’s work requires balancing the economy’s need for smooth commercial operations and society’s right to safety. Having accurate, timely information exchange has always been crucial for Loodswezen since miscommunication or insufficient communication can cause friction, conflicts, and/or traffic delays. Any IT downtime lasting over four hours can cause a complete shutdown of traffic in the port.

“Schuberg Philis is an integral part of our Dutch DevOps team. Together they make the Rotterdam harbor digitally smarter each year.”

Richard Donselaar, CIO, Loodswezen

Our first priority was to achieve 100% stability of Loodswezen’s IT platform, which we did by quickly moving it to our datacenter. We ensured that the migration did not cause dangerous downtime and applications remained up and running. Once we achieved 100% uptime of the applications, we supported Loodswezen in a digital transformation of its daily operations. We helped transform the organization into an agile DevOps IT operation, ensuring knowledge and expertise were secured within its own teams. We also co-created software that increased productivity, such as an application for automated communication between pilots and vessels, which was previously done manually. Eventually, we also moved Loodswezen’s IT platform and application landscape to the public cloud, which was more conducive to innovation.

Loodswezen’s new IT platform has increased staff efficiency. For example, pilots now can use tablets providing easy access to the systems needed to safely transport vessels into and out of the ports. Moving to the public cloud has also increased functionality and effectiveness while letting the organization maintain the same infrastructure costs. Moreover, the digital transformation has encouraged Loodswezen to leverage the cloud for data and better insights to increase pilot productivity, efficiency, and digital cooperation. Last but not least, it has boosted supply chain optimization, thereby supporting the Rotterdam harbor in its objective to be the world’s smartest port.