Containers came into the market for international conveyance of sea freight almost five decades ago. They may be regarded as well accepted and they continue to achieve even more acceptance due to the fact that containers are the foundation for a unit-load-concept. Containers are relatively uniform boxes whose contents do not have to be unpacked at each point of transfer. They have been designed for easy and fast handling of freight. Besides the advantages for the discharge and loading process, the standardization of metal boxes provides many advantages, for the customers, as there are protections against weather pilferage, and improved and simplified scheduling and controlling, resulting in a profitable physical flow of cargo. Regarding operations, we need to distinguish whether we refer just to a container (which in that sense is called a box) or we specify the type of container under consideration. The most common distinction refer to a so-called standard container as one which is twenty feet (20') long, describing the length of a short container. Other containers are measured by means of these containers, i.e. , in twenty feet equivalent unit (TEU) Additional properties of containers may be specified whenever appropriate.
Currently, there are a huge number of containers move through all the world and this number of container will increase each year by about 8.5 % through the next 10 years (Paul Kimberly, March 2000). Ship lines are aware of this growth as can be seen by the huge investments in yard construction of large size container ship that can transverse the oceans at 25 knots, whilst laden with 6000, 7000, and 8000 or more containers. Ports and terminal operators are also cognizant of the coming changes and perhaps threats if they do not keep up with the place of change. The planned container terminals investment in Europe 2001 is approximately 208 million Euros.
Technology must be able to assist terminals in increasing capacity and performance without spending large investment on terminal expansion and equipment. The software rather than the hardware of port development will be the determining factor in future trends on port competition. Congestion and increasing cargo dwell times is a common scene in many of the world’s ports, especially in the ports which are using paper-based system. Shipping lines are unconcerned if there is a poor terminal productivity, as long as their vessel sails on time. Terminal operators are trying to reduce stabilize the cost per Ton/TEU handled and thus maximize profit. Aim is to efficiently use the resources available during the operating time that the vessel is occupying the berth. There lacking high-level information system architecture with the freight systems. Competitive pressures, uncertainty about technology, and the freight sheer complexity of the industry holds development of an architecture and data interchange standards that define how and with whom information is shared back.
For this reasons ports must manage the flow of internal and external information. The port authority and terminal management must be aware of the future trend of information technology and to insure that the information flow is smooth, and there are no reasons for loosing time waiting for data to arrive or time spent in re-keying in the port or terminal system.