Progress! Vooruit! Framåt! Avanti!


By Patrick Seeba, GHPB

Around the globe, voyage planners have long struggled to reconcile widely incongruent and disparately formatted harbor resources in order to ensure that they book the right vessels with the right cargoes to the right ports. At the same time, hydrographic offices, harbormasters, ports’ authority and marine exchanges are besieged by requests for information-- information inevitably interpreted by the standards and norms prevalent not in the location that data is generated, but where it is received.

2015 Half Horz Odfjell
In 2015, the International Harbor Masters’ Association in cooperation with the UK Hydrographic Office, began developing a set of common terms used around the globe. The project was backed by Shell, Maersk, MSC, and CMA-CGM. Representatives from the Port of Rotterdam, the Port of Singapore, the Port of Gothenburg, and the Port of Houston determined in various places to define terms ranging from “underkeel clearance” to “ready for sailing”. With input and vetting from Shell, MSC, CMA-CGM, Maersk, Cosco, K-Line, NYK, UASC, Evergreen, X-press Feeder Lines, APL, China Shipping, Hanjin Shipping, Yang Ming, and Unifeeder, the 65+ definitions were agreed to at the Baltic and International Maritime Council and form the foundation of “Access to Validated Nautical Information” -- the Avanti project.

Avanti is a database and user interface where various entities present standardized harbor information for the benefit of port users around the globe. With secured access and a vetted approval process for updates, users can stand confident that they areapplying the most accurate information about a port available at any given time. The Greater Houston Port Bureau, as the regional Marine Exchange, is participating in this program on behalf of the Houston port community. The Port Bureau is aggregating information from sources ranging from pilot organizations and the VTS to terminal tariffs and company websites, to ensure port users from around the globe will be able to readily access the information necessary to plan their visit to the Houston Ship Channel.

Phase II of the project includes berth-specific information and an advanced data exchange format that will keep data up-to-date. Capturing data on depth, berth admission policies, maintained depth, sounding dates, as well as tidal or obstruction restrictions will allow for voyage planners to see their intended journey visually and receive instant notifications if there are issues which need to be addressed before scheduling.

2014 Half Whitney cropped 2
The Next Steps
With the deployment of Avanti fully underway, the next step the group will look to take involves standardization of real-time status information. This project, named Pronto, is designed to help ship agents and other operators manage vessel service planning. The Port Bureau is considering the possibility of deploying this situation in Houston. However the stated goal of the project, “sharing information regarding services related to the vessel like pilotage, terminal operations, and bunker services” is already partially fulfilled using the HarborLights Vessel Traffic Management System. The Port Bureau will continue to investigate whether or not the Pronto system will add value to operators on the Houston Ship Channel, and keep the port community up-to-date with our progress.

Interested in learning more? Visit to register for the Avanti program, and join the Port Bureau’s Channel Efficiency Committee on May 19, 2016.

  • Date April 12, 2016
  • Tags April 2016