Kanaan agrees with Kaysi that their experience at MIT was
critical. I knew this could work and what we needed to do to make
sure that it would work. Defining the scope of work is critical
Kanaan explains. One of the areas in which the TRU is most involved with
the BCTC is developing the modules behind some of the customized software
that BCTC is using. Kanaan and his colleagues have invested heavily in
IT. Im looking to AUB for practical recommendationssolutions
that can work and make a difference. Im pleased to say that we are
already seeing results. One of the suggestions that the AUB team
made that has resulted in improved efficiency is to implement a new SMS-based,
automated appointments system that makes it possible for them
to achieve more efficient use of yard cranes and reduced truck turnaround
time based on the expected workload for any given day.
Although 30 percent of those in the management ranks at the Beirut Container
Terminal are AUB alumni, the person who works most closely with AUB on
a day-to-day basis is Serge Jabbour, who is not an AUB grad. Jabbour,
who has been here from the beginning, meets with AUB personnel
at least weekly to coordinate the relationship and make sure that both
sides are getting what they need.
One of the unusual features of this relationship is BCTCs willingness
to share datadata that could potentially be useful to its competitorswith
AUB. We are swimming in a sea of data, Kaysi says. For example,
he explains, they send us information on the daily status of all
containers stacked in the terminal storage yard, which is useful for operations
planning purposes, including details on the container type (20 foot or
40 foot), its dwell time in the yard, the vessel that carried
it and its shipping line, its exact location in the storage block (row
number, stack number), etc.
He goes on to explain, Actually, this is quite an unusual experience.
Often you have to beg companies for data. Jabbour smiles when he
hears this story. You should see what I sent him just last night!
When asked about this, Kanaan says that this has never been an issue for
him. I told the staff here from the beginning. Give AUB what they
need. Its a no-brainer for me. Im interested in results, in
improvements. If our competitors can do things better, good for them.
Jabbour works closely with Farah Mneimneh, an AUB grad who now works full-time
on the TRU project. Although everyone involved in this project will tell
you that Kaysi is very involved in all aspects of TRUs work, it
is Mneimneh who attends all the meetings with BCTC personnel at the port.
She explains that she and her colleagues are looking for opportunities
to re-engineer some of the critical operations at the container terminal.
For example, we are hoping to identify a way to increase efficiency by
adopting new planning strategies for container pickup/discharge operations
on any given day. That would result in an increase in the number of containers
served by yard cranes during busy daily periods, which ultimately reduces
truck turnaround time in the yard as well as vessel waiting time.
Ramia and Nayfe (the two students who learned about the project while
watching TV), who are also working for the TRU, are conducting a study
to compare the Beirut port with other Eastern Mediterranean ports. They
are comparing terminals using some of the standard benchmarks in the industry,
such as berth occupancy (percentage of time the berth is busy), berth
and crane productivity (number of container moves per hour), crane downtime,
and truck delivery turnaround time. This is part of a larger effort to
assess the growth potential of the Beirut port. Ramia and Nayfe agree
that the opportunity to work with the TRU and on this particular project
is a wonderful opportunity for us.
Impact in the Classroom
Ramia and Nayfe are not the only AUB students who are benefiting from
the presence of a TRU at AUB. Several masters students have chosen
to do port-related research. Serene Saab, for example, is assessing the
transshipment operations at the Beirut Container Terminal (BCT) to determine
what it would need to do to increase its share of the lucrative regional
containerized trade traffic. She explains, We will be looking not
only at the facilities at BCT itself but also at the other ports in the
region. She plans to then develop a model that will make it possible
to quantify the factors involved in attracting transshipment traffic and
the reasons why carriers prefer one port over another.
Although Saab is still in the early stages of her research, Rayan Mahmoud
Khraibani completed the masters program in Engineering Management
in June 2006. For his masters thesis, he developed a financial framework
that could be used to evaluate port privatization options using the Beirut
Port as a case study. What I did, Khraibani says, is
to synthesize container ports privatization models, analyze their advantages
and disadvantages, identify risks, revenues and costs associated with
the privatization scheme, and build an overall evaluationand a financialframework.
I then tested the framework for the case of the Beirut port, which recently
adopted a privatization scheme that assigned the management and operation
of the newly constructed container terminal to a private company.
Kaysi explains that getting his students involved in the TRU is one of
his top priorities. For example, in spring 2006 he asked the students
in his Transportation Economics course to prepare a bid for the management
and operation of the container terminal at the Port of Beirut. I
wanted them to look at all aspects of the problem and not to approach
this as just a design problem. To do this assignment, the students had
to make some assumptions using available (and incomplete) data sources
and their engineering judgment. Many of them were not comfortable with
this at firstwe engineers like dealing with hard databut this
is the way it is in the real world. Our students need these skills. This
is the type of assignment that they will be given during their careers.
The Transport Research Unit is moving quickly to establish itself as the
place to come for expertise and advice on transportation-related issues,
not just in Lebanon but in the Middle East. Its work for the BCTC, which
is a founding member of the unit, has been critical in establishing its
reputation in the region. Kaysi explains that there are many areas in
which the TRU could make a contribution and that it is already working
on a World Bank-funded project to revitalize public transportation in
Lebanon. We have shown that transportation is more than just highways,
he says. He is very proud of the units work for BCTC and praises
Kanaan in particular. He understands the value of academia. He had
the vision and saw how AUB could make a real difference to the container
The pace of activity at the terminals is greater than ever,
not only because of the need to work through the backlog that was caused
by the war in 2006. Because of the dramatic increase in transshipment
business, the BCTC and TRU are working together to address the urgent,
new operational challenges that the terminal faces.