What is Just In-Time Arrival? How Can we Link JIT and ETA?

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Reducing its carbon impact is of outmost importance for the maritime industry. In this regard, overcoming operational inefficiencies is one of the priorities for stakeholders across the sector. This includes minimizing the time, fuel, and energy wasted by merchant vessels while waiting at anchorage until it is their turn to berth. The concept of just-in-time (JIT) arrival has been developed to ensure that each ship only arrives at the Pilot Boarding Place (PBP) when all facilities and services are available. The objective is to increase port efficiency and port call optimization. 

What are the benefits of just-in-time arrivals?

When arriving at the next port of call of this journey, a ship does not immediately berth. Instead, it sometimes has to sit for days waiting before it can come at the quay to unload the cargo. During this waiting time, basic power needs have to be maintained, which means fuel and energy consumption, as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  

How to Track a Ship In Real-Time ?

Let us look at how a ships’ real-time tracker works, its details and features, its benefits for all players in the shipping sector but also its weaknesses…

 Understanding the concept of JIT arrival

The concept of just-in-time (JIT) arrival aims at reducing time at anchorage in order to lower the environmental impact and congestion issues at harbors. For instance, it consists of adjusting the vessel’s speed during the voyage so as to make it arrive at the optimal date and berthing window set by the port when all assets are available and ready to receive the ship: pilots, tugs, quays, handling equipment, crew, ancillary services, trucks, and trailers, etc.  

It is then far more efficient than the old conventional approach of “first-come-first-served” that induces the vessel crew to sail at full speed ahead to get in line at the earliest and meet the canceling date set in the contract.  

How does JIT reduce idle time?

According to several studies, container vessels spend on average 6% to 9% of their time at anchor, waiting to berth. The situation was made worse by the huge port congestion caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In autumn 2021, a record of 100 container vessels lining up to enter the two main ports of the United States (Los Angeles and Long Beach in California) was observed. And in April 2022, the city-wide lockdown in Shanghai in the context of the increase of infections led to a shortage of port workers, slowing operations. 477 bulk cargo ships carrying raw materials were therefore reported queuing outside Chinese ports. 

These delays have an impact on all activities at each step: 

  • cargo unloading at the quayside;  
  • cargo storage at the yard (containers), in silos (grains and other bulk dry), or in tank farms (oil and other liquid) before inland transportation; 
  • hinterland transport by rail/road/pipelines or inland barging up to the final delivery place. 
  • Determining JIT arrivals has multiple benefits for both container and bulk terminals: reduced idle time (non-productive time), which allows it to streamline vessel rotation time; 
  • improved terminal asset utilization;  
  • increased operational efficiency and productivity; 
  • lower CO2 and NOx emissions; 
  • significant reduction in the terminal plan variability. 

Shipping companies also find a great interest in JIT: 

  • visibility on the status of each vessel of the fleet;  
  • decreased fuel consumption, thanks to slow steaming and minimum non-value-added operations during waiting time; 
  • less CO2 emissions and unnecessary bunker consumption; 
  • maximized the number of trips and customers served; 
  • shorter laytime, meaning fewer demurrage charges to be paid to the ship’s owner; 
  • better navigational safety with fewer ships maneuvering around the port. 

How to implement just-in-time arrivals?


Coordinating and carrying out this wide spectrum of tasks safely and smoothly is very difficult and requires very strict resources and operations planning. As a matter of fact, in order to determine the best suitable berthing window for each vessel, the terminal has to take multiple aspects into account: 

  • ressource availability and utilization; 
  • schedule of all other vessels; 
  • availability of the cargo to be loaded at the time of the ship’s arrival, considering the supply chain disruptions, the traffic jam at the port entry, and the shortage of empty containers. 

Juggling these constraints results in frequent changes in the terminal operational planning, which need to be communicated as soon as possible to all parties that might be affected so as to allow them to take timely action. 

How do digital technologies facilitate JIT deployment?

Using a common platform to share data is the best way to ensure real-time communication with vessels at sea and shore-side stakeholders of any update made to the plans and Requested Time of Arrival (RTA) for all ships expected. The most advanced tools include automated warnings that keep customers updated on any changes on the terminal’s side with no extra effort or extra costs for both parties.  

Such a way of working goes beyond bilateral communication, avoids redundant emails or phone calls, and prevents the participants that deal with ships and ports from searching for reliable information from multiple sources or having to double-check the latest version of the planning before taking a decision.  

Digital technologies help the actors in the maritime sector ensure just-in-time arrivals and eliminate unnecessary waiting time. Connectivity is a central point to make the system run smoothly. It is ensured by cutting-edge solutions that use Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things, and Big data. Last but not least, by feeding the system, comprehensive and accurate data play a vital role in establishing efficient planning: 

  • vessel type and equipment; 
  • weather and sea conditions; 
  • environmental specificities on the planned sea routes; 
  • routing parameters. 

How can we link JIT and ETA?

On top of these, knowing the Estimated Time of Arrival of a given ship at each port of call is extremely helpful. The next port discharging authorities can thoroughly prepare the loading/offloading operations and coordinate with the vessel crew in order to realize a JIT and complete all necessary tasks within the allocated port time. 

Sinay’s portfolio of state-of-the-art digital applications for the maritime industry includes a free ETA calculation module. This AI-based software uses data transmitted from the vessel AIS, in addition to weather forecasts and other data gathered from satellites and connected sensors. With a high level of accuracy, it contributes to better traffic management inside and outside the port, and contributes to lowering the turnaround time. 

How to Track a Ship In Real-Time ?

Let us look at how a ships’ real-time tracker works, its details and features, its benefits for all players in the shipping sector but also its weaknesses…

What are the barriers to JIT quick deployment?

As outlined by maritime sector experts, JIT actually starts at the previous port. Therefore, the strategic decisions cannot be focused on terminal local operations. Because the scope is much bigger, all actors have to commit to doing their part and providing the required information. Yet, this data sharing is one of the main barriers to Just in Time Arrivals implementation on a global scale. Some companies fear commercial side effects because that information might be used against them in case of claims or litigation.  

However, things are evolving. End-users themselves call for increased information-sharing so as to speed up port calls. Furthermore, Just-In-Time arrivals clauses are now included in contracts between owners and charterers. Such a clause is used in a voyage charter, giving charterers the right to request permission from the owner to optimize the vessel’s speed in order to reach its destination at an agreed time. This has been published by BIMCO (Baltic and International Maritime Council), which is one of the largest commercial shipping trade organizations worldwide, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. BIMCO’s aim is to promote more efficient shipping procedures and reduce the environmental impact of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

And as part of its effort to promote low-carbon shipping, the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) provides all organizations involved in the port call process with practical guidance on how to realize JIT Arrivals. The list includes shipowners, shipping lines and their agents, ship brokers, port authorities, terminal service providers, etc. 

Conclusion about Just In-Time Arrival

Just-in-time arrivals minimize the anchoring time, with a positive impact on the shipping industry’s carbon footprint and sustainability. This also enables cost savings, leading to a higher bottom line for the terminal and other players that take part in the port call process. On a wider scale, it improves the overall efficiency and transparency of the whole logistics chain. However, JIT is just a start in the transformation of the way port calls are organized. As digital technologies are widely deployed in port stakeholder systems, other significant changes are expected. 

Frequently Asked Questions About JIT and ETA

JIT means Just-In-Time Arrival, it’s a process that aims to reduce time at anchorage to lower environmental impact and congestion issues. 

ETA= Estimated Time of Arrival is when a ship is expected to arrive at a specific destination. Accurately predicting the ETA allows to improve the efficiency of the entire supply chain

JIT avoids fuel and energy consumption during waiting for a berth, as greenhouse gas emissions. 

To implement efficiency just in time arrival different aspects have to be considered:

  • Resources availability and utilization
  • Schedule of all other vessels
  • Availability of loading time 

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