Port management have enormous amounts of activity to oversee and manage

ADAPTING AND IMPROVING CUSTOMER SUPPORT FOR BUSIEST PORTS IN THE U.S. DURING A PANDEMIC

The Ports of Los Angeles (L.A.) and Long Beach has been a trusted customer of Kongsberg Norcontrol, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, since 1993. As two of the busiest container ports in the world, the port management have enormous amounts of activity to oversee and manage. To do this, they use a highly efficient Vessel Traffic Services system (VTS) from Kongsberg Norcontrol.

  • Text:Written by Zhuo Ann Fuglesang. Modified by Njål Frilseth.

    Photo:Cover photo: Steve Saunders. All other photos used are owned by KONGSBERG.

A service agreement with Kongsberg Norcontrol and the two busiest port in the U.S., the Port of L.A. and Port of Long Beach, ensure that the ports have access to 24-hour support year-round. Once a year the Kongsberg Norcontrol team conduct an onsite client meeting for system updates, maintenance and developing our in-person customer relationship. With the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, visits became impossible - so the Kongsberg Norcontrol customer support team had to be creative and find alternative ways of performing maintenance and ensuring that their customers were well taken care of.  

Together with the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach, the Kongsberg Norcontrol customer support team decided to do a virtual product maintenance visit. The challenge was to provide every benefit of a regular meetings without being physically present. To make this happen, the support team put Odd Erik from customer support on evening shifts in Norway to match local time in California – a nine hour time difference.Port.jpg

A VIRTUAL INTERNATIONAL VISIT

“I had to work from 15.00 to 23.00 here in Norway to sync up with the time in L.A., which was 6.00 to 14.00. An always-on video line was opened so that I was available for questions and comments at any time, just like being there in person. It also allowed the folks in L.A. a glimpse into my home life in between system updates,” says Odd Erik.

To conduct a remote update was slightly more complicated than it would have been to do onsite. Installing the software can be done from afar, however it is easier to collaborate with the customer in person and on location.

“With the remote update, local effort from the customer was crucial as they would have to press buttons, test, fix cables and restart systems as necessary. It was like they were our hands and we could tell them over video exactly what to do. It did require more work from them than a usual product maintenance visit, and luckily they were very happy to help and they did their best, allowing the update to go ahead as planned,” says Odd Erik.

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Everyone gave it their best, and the virtual product maintenance visit turned out to be a huge success. Everyone, from leaders, operator and engineers, could join the digital meetings, and by creating an easy way for everyone to drop-in on the meetings made it feel as if Odd Erik was there in person. The virtual visit lasted eight working days. As the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach Vessel Traffic Services is a large system, an extensive upgrade, configuration and service was required. The whole project was a success in large parts thanks to strong efforts from the support team and our close collaboration with the people in L.A.

CROSS-BORDER PARTNERSHIP

While the virtual platform did require some flexibility with daily work schedules due to the time difference between Los Angeles and Norway, the partnership shined through with everyone adjusting their normal workdays to accommodate the work to be completed remotely. The transition to utilizing the virtual platforms during the pandemic has been extremely positive.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Kongsberg Norcontrol for the past 7 years while maintaining the Norcontrol System at VTS LA-LB (Vessel Traffic Services Los Angeles-Long Beach). The best word to describe the experience with Kongsberg Norcontrol is “partnership”. Kongsberg Norcontrol treats the VTS LA-LB system as their own and takes a tremendous amount of pride in ensuring our system is reliable, current, evolving into the future, and meeting our needs. Kongsberg Norcontrol takes our feedback regularly to further develop the system and implement functionality to better serve the users,” says Capt. Patrick Baranic (Pat), General Manager of Marine Exchange of Southern California.

Remote system updates for L.A. were conducted twice during the pandemic, and this method has become a model for future system updates. Kongsberg Norcontrol is now improving the techniques and the technology used for virtual updates, and see it as a service they can offer in in combination with in-person meetings when the pandemic is over. This opportunity makes it possible to conduct more product updates per year. 

“Working with the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach folks for all these years, it is like we have become one big team. Everyone helps each other out and the communication is always ongoing. They have learned a lot about the system over the years and are able to fix many problems by themselves. They usually only need help if there is an issue with larger functionalities, and they often help with finding solutions,” says Odd Erik.VTS Supervisor on Radar Watch PM 14 Dec 2021.JPG.jpg

TEAM WORK AND DEDICATION

“During the pandemic Kongsberg Norcontrol’s level of service and their ability to ensure our system is functioning properly has remained at the highest standard. Utilizing virtual platforms and remote capabilities during the pandemic we were able to conduct a major server upgrade, our annual service visit, and normal routine troubleshooting. Kongsberg Norcontrol was able to adapt and adjust to ensure everything at VTS LA-LB remained addressed with the same level of expertise as if they were onsite. Odd Erik is phenomenal at what he does for VTS LA-LB. He is not only an expert in the Kongsberg Norcontrol system, but he is exceptional at explaining things for those of us locally so we can understand and manage the system effectively. Kongsberg Norcontrol and Odd Erik do a masterful job of maintaining this complex multiple location system while tailoring the functionality to each organization and their specific needs,“ says Capt. Baranic.

“We consider ourselves lucky to be a part of this great partnership with Kongsberg Norcontrol for the last 29 years. Our operation runs 24 hours a day 365 days a year and Kongsberg Norcontrol is always available to ensure the system is meeting our needs and that the system is functioning properly at all times. We are thankful to all the members of the Kongsberg Norcontrol team for their dedication and support every day.”

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The VTS system of L.A. and Long Beach is a 5-part partnership. The main responsibility is held by the Marine Exchange of Southern California who collaborate with Los Angeles Pilots, Long Beach Pilots, Port of Long Beach and United States Coast Guard.