The port at Jorf Lasfar teems with activity. The vessels being loaded transport over 11 million tonnes of fertilizer to five continents, every year. But today, we’re focused just outside the port. A cargo ship is anchored while drones – manned by a team on the shore – fly around it.
The onshore team are wearing VR headsets, examining the footage that’s streaming from the drones
The onshore team are all wearing virtual reality (VR) headsets, examining the footage that’s streaming from the drones. They’re inspecting the vessel before it enters the port. By knowing if the vessel’s hold is dry and ready for cargo, they’ll either be able to give the all clear for the vessel to enter the port, or they’ll be able to give the captain instructions about what needs to be remedied.
“Inspecting the vessels by drone came from an innovation campaign run by the Jorf Lasfar maritime operations department,” says Soukaina Ouarahmoun, the port operations lead. “The campaign was open to all employees and supported by the OCP Innovation team via its digital platform, Innov’OCP.”
The campaign brief was to find opportunities where the Jorf Lasfar team could save time, reduce cost or increase safety. In total, 77 ideas were submitted, one of which was the remote drone inspection.
If a vessel comes into port and its hold is still wet or not clean, the OCP team will not risk compromising the fertilizer by placing it in the hold. Precious time is wasted while the vessel’s crew then have to ready the hold.
“Our OCP Digital Office helped us through their partner, Drone Reveal, a Moroccan start-up,” continues Soukaina. “They worked tirelessly to ensure that the drones could transmit good quality visuals, no matter what the position of the hold, and we also had to ensure that the drones could cope with different (and often difficult) conditions. Wind, humidity and the movement of the vessel could all impact on the drones’ ability to fly and transmit footage.”
We’ve already inspected over a hundred vessels by drone
The process the team uses today is the one they refined during testing. The ship is anchored at a place designated safe by the harbor master. The team onshore launches their drones and the inspection begins. It’s the first of its kind in Morocco and Africa.
“We’ve already inspected over a hundred vessels like this,” says Soukaina, “and about half of them were not ready for cargo.
“This process is saving an estimated 13 hours per vessel. Which, in working hours, is over a day of harbour time. It’s really significant.”