IT Glitches at the Port of New York and New Jersey Slow Cargo Handling

A modern cargo handling system continues to undergo teething pains at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

A recently installed modern cargo handling system at the Port of New York and New Jersey continues to be slowed by software glitches that have plagued the project at least since June, but some service improvements are starting to be seen.

That's the latest joint status report from the Ports and the system vendor, Navis, which builds software that enables complex systems to organize, load, unload and handle large cargo containers in seaports around the world. Maher Terminals, a freight company at the Ports, arranged to purchase Navis' latest cargo-handling software, the SPARCS N4 Marine Terminal Operating System, back in April 2008 and has been undergoing its deployment.

"The implementation of the new operating systems at Maher's Elizabeth, N.J., facility has turned the corner, as service has returned to acceptable levels during the past several weeks, albeit at reduced volume," according to a July 31 joint statement from Maher and Navis. "Barring any unforeseen circumstances, this steady progress has now put the terminal in a position to handle all of its business and transition to normalized operations."

That's good news for the Ports, which have seen critical slowdowns in cargo handling due to the software problems, according to an Aug. 5 story in The Wall Street Journal. The problems began in June, the story reported, and have been causing all kinds of freight-handling delays just as retailers are hoping to get their shipments in time for the back-to-school shopping season and the December holidays.

"The computer system at the port in Elizabeth, N.J., was meant to improve routing of cargo from ships to trucks and trains, helping terminal operators track containers and allowing longshoremen to locate them for loading onto trucks," reported the Journal. "But industry officials and the longshoremen's union said elements of the system didn't successfully communicate with each other."

The problems, according to the joint Navis and Maher statement, are being solved by modifying the implementation plans and scaling back troublesome parts of the system until they can be fixed and brought back online.

Ivo Oliveira, a vice president of industry relations for Maher, did not respond to several requests for comment from eWEEK.

Andy Barrons, vice president and chief marketing officer for Navis, told eWEEK that the system is improving from a performance perspective as the glitches, which have surfaced in the system's wireless network, are resolved.

"This was an implementation of multiple component systems [including software, container moving equipment and vehicles] that are integrated together in an overall solution," said Barrons. "What was identified was an issue with the wireless network that prevented the automated process of inventorying the containers as they moved around the yard. That component, which has a position-detection system, was preventing the automated process from working."