Important AV systems.

The Porto de Leixões authority has had a major new control centre installed by local Barco integration partner Room Dimensions. Chris Fitzsimmons was invited to see the newly commissioned site.

Porto de Leixões in Portugal, located down river of the city of Porto is the country’s largest commercial port, handling some 14 million tonnes of freight cargo every year at an average of almost 40,000 per day. However until very recently this busy industrial port has operated on the most basic of technologies. Two years ago, a plan was developed to combine all of the ports management and security operations into one site. It finally came to fruition in September 2006 when, as a result of a €1,4m investment a new operations room unifying CCTV monitoring and shipping traffic control was opened in the historic former harbour masters office.

Two adjoining rooms separated with a partition wall have been outfitted with a total of 45 of Barco’s new OverView mDR+50-DL 50” DLP cubes. These have been arranged in a 7 x 3 CCTV monitoring wall in one room, and an 8 x 3 status and control wall for the port.

Both walls are controlled by Barco’s Argus Processor, which interfaces with proprietary software written by the Port’s technical team headed by Nuno Rebeiro. He commented: “We have worked very hard to integrate as many different information sources as possible into the control wall. We are taking data from shipping databases, from meteorological information databases and from the client companies themselves and then putting it all in one place for our pilots and port management team. The overall plan is to improve both the volume handling and efficiency of the information systems. We still have some way to go in terms of further integration of systems, but already we are licensing the software we have developed to other ports.”

Integration itself was carried out by Porto based Room Dimensions, Sales Manager Luís Xavier described the systems: “In addition to the control walls we also supplied each room with a Crestron control system. This allows operators to select pre-determined layouts using a touch panel. It was important to the port to make things as simple as possible for the staff.” The panels additionally give control over the room’s lighting and environmental systems.

The smaller wall is manned by a private contractor and used to monitor the port’s network of CCTV cameras. The are used to observe the road network linking the port and the surrounding town, as well as keeping an eye on the stock yards, cargo storage areas and entrance to the port.

The Port’s CCTV system is hotchpotch of both legacy analogue and new digital systems, but the new control room is equipped to deal with both, thanks to a rack of analogue to digital converters supplied by VCS. These allow the analogue signals to be routed over the control centre’s 4Gb network in mpeg2 format. Using a digital system will mean that future additions to the camera network can been seamlessly incorporated into the system.

The second, larger wall is used for the management of port traffic. The dynamic display shows an overview of the port and allows port pilots and managers to plan in advance the arrival and processing of container ships from all over the world. From the simplest task such as finding a birth by looking at the size and draught of a ship, to analysis detailed meteorological information or tide tables. Once the software is fully integrated the information available will be expanded to cover things like the cargo of the ship, whether it presents a hazard, and other important information. This is currently handled by a separate system. Prior the installation of the new visualisation system, berth planning was done with a wall map and paper cut outs, a system that is still kept on hand as a backup.

The investment made in the port’s information and management systems is only one point of a 21-point modernisation plan that was agreed in 2004 by the Portuguese government. It represents a massive technological step forward for Porto De Leixões and it will take some time before it is used to its full potential. Training of staff is ongoing, and Nuno Ribeiro and his team continue to work on software solutions to get the most out of the powerful tool they now have at their disposal.

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