Due to the sheer volume of inventory that ships can carry, ports have larger and more complicated infrastructure than most gateways of commerce. Even the physical structure of ports changes over time, with new docks built and water reclaimed into land on a regular basis. Considering this dynamic environment, officials at the Port of Los Angeles adopted a complete enterprise GIS implementation at the harbour. In 2009, the Port hired GIS consultant NorthSouth GIS and Esri, as well as engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol and IT consultant Tech/Knowledge, to create a system to aggregate, serve and share port data across all its divisions.
The main driver: unified operations
The Port of LA encompasses 7,500 acres, covers 43 miles of waterfront, and features 27 cargo terminals, including dry and liquid bulk, container, breakbulk, automobile, and omni facilities. Combined, these terminals handle almost 190 million metric revenue tonne cargo annually. With that amount of goods going through the port and national security being a primary concern, the first order of business was to give operations, including the Port Police, access to every kilobyte of data related to the port.
“Th e Port Police needed complete situational awareness which was not possible without accessing data from other divisions,” says Christine Thome, Enterprise GIS Manager at the Port of LA. Most of the data was locked up in silos within the department. A combination of an array of GIS servers with API software allowed the police to mine whatever data they needed at any time.
“We knew that an ArcGIS Server-based system will provide a foundation for a robust Blue Force Tracking system that shows where all officers, vehicles, and vessels are at any given time,” says Thome. The success of the project convinced management, and the rest of the divisions who actively shared their data with the Port Police, that an enterprise GIS implementation would work for all port operations.
Since the Port Police has sensitive data that only security personnel can view, data permissions for each division needed to be sorted out first. Every division that owned and maintained data for the Port of LA needed permission for updating and making changes to its datasets. “We formed a technical advisory committee for that,” says Daniel Elroi, President, NorthSouth GIS. “This was one of the many steps we took to encourage collaboration, by making it possible for divisions to retain control over their data.”
Data portal: geoPOLA
A significant portion of data at the Port of LA is dynamic information. Constantly in flux, dynamic data, such as ship locations, weather, and movable assets, is just as crucial to know as fixed geospatial parameters. Without access to that information, complete maritime domain awareness (nautical speak for “common operating picture”) wasn’t possible.
“We created a viewer with the Silverlight API that would display all enterprise data, including the dynamic data,” says Elroi. “Port data changes frequently in location, status, or both. The key to delivering optimal awareness across the board was to write software that combined static and dynamic awareness in one area for everyone to view.”
The Port of LA staff views data exclusively through the browser-based Silverlight viewer, which it calls geoPOLA. It is easy to use and has the ability to show each division at the Port, the data layers of greatest relevance, to its own members. The Port’s GIS editors, who maintain the ArcGIS Server enterprise geodatabase with both AutoCAD and ArcGIS, were able to view the same map services used in geoPOLA on their desktops.
Feeds and metadata
One of the most important aspects of a modern GIS implementation is the integration of data from disparate sources. As a result, Dynamic Data Focus Group was developed to determine what type of dynamic data the port could consume. Dynamic Data Focus Group and NorthSouth GIS researched different sources of data to see if they had anything that the port could consume as a feed. After three months of research, they finally chose feeds like the vessels, radar, AVL, weather, traffic, and CHP alerts. The system is designed in such a way that new dynamic feeds can be easily added through a data feed middleware that converts various formats into a standardised geoRSS format.
Also, creation of metadata standards and procedures is important. For that, Elroi customised a metadata programme that simplified the creation, tracking and management of the Port’s finer-grained data. “Without it [programme], inputting this information manually would have taken forever,” says Thome.
As the nation’s premier trade gateway, the Port of LA needed to fortify its internal operations to remain efficient and profitable. That fortification resulted in more than 1,000 computer users at the port easily accessing GIS and dynamic data through geoPOLA.