S'pore ferries to gain from US$1.53M IT project

IT vendor NEC will help Singapore Cruise Center implement RFID-enabled boarding passes and upgrade to a Web-based reservations system.

SINGAPORE--Cruise and ferry terminal operator Singapore Cruise Center (SCC) is pumping S$2.5 million (US$1.53 million) into a high-tech project which it hopes will help the company more efficiently manage the 6 million passengers who pass through its two terminals yearly.

The project, which has been awarded to NEC Solutions Asia-Pacific, includes the implementation of boarding passes with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, and the migration of SCC's existing reservations and service support systems to a Web-based architecture.

Addressing reporters at a signing ceremony Thursday, NEC CEO Tomohiro Yagi said: "We would be adopting leading-edge technology [such as Microsoft's .Net platform], and helping SCC implement the region's first RFID-enabled boarding pass, and a host of e-services for enhanced customer service and security."

According to Cheong Teow Cheng, president of SCC, the project started in November 2005 and will be completed by March 2007. SCC hopes to reap benefits in the areas of operational efficiency, customer service and security, when the project is completed, he added.

When the RFID boarding passes have been deployed, SCC estimates that it could gain cost savings of about 92 percent, Cheong said. Currently, passengers are given bar-coded boarding passes for one-time use and each pass costs S$0.03 (US$0.02).

"The RFID passes are reusable, recyclable up to 500 times," he explained. "With each card costing between S$1.20 (US$0.74) to S$1.30 (US$0.79), this works up to about a quarter of a cent per use."

The SCC is likely to buy about 1 million of RFID-enabled boarding passes which are based on the ISO 14443 standard. The cruise terminal operator handles traffic from six ferry companies, and over 50 cruise ships a year. One vessel departs from its terminals every five minutes.

In addition, by migrating to a Web-based architecture from a proprietary mainframe system, SCC would be able to save on maintenance costs, Cheong added.

When the Internet portal is launched this February, SCC customers would be able to book tickets online, obtain cruise or ferry schedules, and fare promotions via e-newsletters. The combination of RFID technology and the Internet interface will also create a fully-automated process for customers who buy tickets online, Cheong said.

Passengers can perform an automated check-in via a self-service kiosk, enter the restricted zone and exit the boarding gate through RFID-enabled turnstiles and board the vessel, he explained.

The Web-based systems would also allow the terminal operator to connect real-time to the ferry-operators' reservation systems to minimize any double-entry of passenger details, he said.

Finally, security is enhanced because the upgraded system will be able to monitor passenger entry into restricted zones, said Cheong, adding that the current system uses manual checks, which is prone to human error.

About S$2.5 million (US$1.53 million) will be invested on the upgraded systems, Cheong estimates, up to S$300,000 (US$183,750) of which will be spent on turnstile systems, S$500,000 (US$306,250) on additional servers and hardware and S$1.7 million (US$1.04 million) will go towards software purchases.