COMPANIES serving the tank container industry have joined the rush to the Internet. The trend was clearly apparent at Marichem 97, which was held December 2-4, 1997, in Cologne, Germany.
Most prominent at the twelfth convening of the biennial tank container conference and exposition were Internet products designed to transmit certifications, surveyors' reports, and other documents. Internet products were rolled out during several press conferences at Marichem and at various displays in the exposition.
Members of the industry say the Internet's information transmission capability will be a crucial tool for the 21st century. Using the Internet, documents can be sent to any corner of the earth in a matter of seconds. In fact, surveys with photographs included can be available on the Internet as soon as they are completed.
Lloyd's Register launched the first phase of Container Direct, which will serve tank container builders and owners. The Internet-based design appraisal service was developed to reduce paperwork and provide certificates in less time, according to Malcolm Burch with Lloyd's Register. The URL is www.lr.org.
Under Phase I, tank container manufacturers can send contract requirements and drawings by Internet e-mail, and Lloyd's Registry specialists in London, England, will appraise and certify the specifications. A quick response will be provided via the Internet.
"The result is a reduction in the time between design finalization and the start of production," Burch said. "In addition, the service is flexible enough to permit design modifications during the production process."
Phases II and III should be on-line in early 1998 and will add further services, including on-site inspection and certification delivery. In Phase II, Lloyd's Registry surveyors in the field will receive frequent database updates for their laptop computers. Phase III will bring Internet e-mail delivery of all certification.
To use Container Direct, tank container builders and owners will need a computer with Internet access, a web browser, and e-mail software capable of handling binary attachments in either MIME or UUENCODE formats. Container Direct currently is configured for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, but Lloyd's Registry representatives said Netscape Navigator capability would be added very soon.
Access to Container Direct is through a secure server, and Burch stressed that Lloyd's Registry is confident that unauthorized individuals will not be able to tamper with the data. Registered users have a password and can access only their own data.
HITS Program Bureau Veritas displayed its Internet capabilities, which gives customers access to HITS (Help for In-service/Initial Tank Survey) reports. HITS was field-tested in the United States in 1997 and now is being rolled out worldwide.
The HITS system links tank surveyors with Bureau Veritas' central database in Paris, France. HITS schedules inspections and provides surveyors with tank records and the inspections that are needed. Surveyors download reports from touch-screen laptop computers.
With the HITS system, survey data is available much faster, according to Thierry de Beaulieu, training & development manager for Bureau Veritas' Industry Division. Paperwork is reduced and certificates can be delivered more quickly to clients.
The system incorporates: technical file appraisal, new construction certification and inspection, and in-service statutory and non-statutory surveys. Benefits include: * Instant error-free editing of inspection reports. * Real-time replication of original tank parameters. * Consolidation of all inspection reports. * Imaging capabilities for a paperless environment. * Internet access.
Transamerica RAID Transamerica Leasing announced the second phase of its on-line program called RAID (Remote Access Image Database). RAID gives Transamerica customers Internet access to over 150,000 documents, including inspection reports, construction certificates, and calibration charts. RAID was officially launched at Marichem 97.
In Phase I of RAID, key regional offices were given on-line access to more than 50,000 documents covering the Transamerica tank fleet.
Customers are given a password, which enables them to enter the Transamerica website to check data relating to tank containers currently on hire. Reports can be printed out on the customer's printer.
"There are some documents, such as calibration charts, that customers need immediately, and our new RAID system gives them that quick access," said Rita Pallmann-Golde, tank container director at Transamerica Leasing. "RAID overrides time zones, eliminates the need to call a central office for documentation, and creates significant opportunities for cost savings."
The RAID indexing system provides significant flexibility in the way documentation is sorted. Customers have the option of printing all of the documentation for a specific tank container, or they can select specific items. Materials that are available through the RAID system include on-hire surveys and photographs.
Silver Inspection Services, Seabrook, Texas, was one of the first tank container surveyors to computerize the reporting process in the field. The company has formed an alliance with CIMS International, Antwerp, Belgium. The joint operation is called: Silver/CIMS Inspection.
The partners will use the computer and Internet systems developed by Silver to provide formal survey reports to customers within 24 hours of completion. Reports are available to customers 24 hours a day through the Silver and CIMS websites (www.intermodalsurvey.com and www.tankcontainer.com).
Surveyors in the two organizations use Touch Estimating Systems TouchPC portable computers from John Evans International to record inspection data and develop reports. Digital cameras are used for detailed photographs.
Silver/CIMS Inspection has surveyors in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United States.