Smart ports give shipping a boost

Digital technologies like IoT and AI are making ports intelligent.

Maritime has always been one of the pillars of global transport networks. Today, shipping transports around 85 percent of international trade by tonnage, according to the WTO. Ships have been transforming digitally for some time, becoming nodes on shipping company networks while out at sea. Now ports are getting in on the act, such as in the Middle East where Abu Dhabi Ports Chief Executive Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi commented recently that vessel operators, shipyards and builders must “take advantage of technology growth and spend money on research and development to start the process of digitization.”

Shipping transports 85% of international trade

According to Gartner, the shipping and logistics industry is set to evolve towards a completely digitized future. “We expect that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, corporate social responsibility, and cost-to-serve analytics will all drive significant shifts in supply chain strategies within the next decade,” said Gartner Research VP Noha Tohamy.

Digital transforming port operations

Vehicle booking systems (VBSs) and license plate readers are helping haulage companies optimize freight traffic routes to ports and streamline port processes. License plate readers and geofencing can give ports greater visibility of vehicles coming in and out and enable better planning and ETAs. Remote container management (RCM) uses wireless, cellular and satellite connectivity to create smart containers that ports can monitor for faults or defects in real time.

Blockchain is also finding a place in maritime, with port operators and logistics companies able to use it to more securely manage transactions using smart contracts. All parties in a transaction, including sellers, buyers of cargo, customs and port authorities can share a database that is home to a secure, distributed ledger running a blockchain protocol. Blockchain offers a new, more secure transaction host, but at the same time, when seeking to add ships with cargo worth millions of dollars to a corporate network, cyber security must run through everything and be a priority, not an afterthought. IBM’s Cyber Security Intelligence Index ranked transportation as the fifth most cyber-attacked industry in 2016, but just 43 percent of crew are aware of cyber safe policies provided by their company, and according to Futurenautics, only 12 percent received any cyber security training.

Gerald Lee, Head of IoT Integration Practice and Service Delivery at Orange Business, comments: “In Singapore where I live, we are seeing the development of the world’s first mega port, a fully autonomous smart port of unprecedented size and scale. Ports have been evolving fast recently, with governments and maritime companies now investing similar money that in the past decade went into technology in airports, on trains and so on. Companies are asking how they can digitize port operations to their benefit, and how they can transform very traditional ways of working using digital technology. Cyber security however plays a fundamental role in all these developments.”

Ports have been evolving fast

Maritime playing roles in big projects

Throughout the MENA region, maritime is taking its place in large-scale infrastructure and economic projects. In Saudi Arabia, as part of the kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030 initiative, plans have been approved to develop the port at Jeddah, a strategically important location on the Red Sea that forms part of the most important route between Europe and the Far East. Digital technologies will be central to the port’s transformation and growth.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is trialing autonomous ships with a view to improving safety and lowering operating costs by 2019. Harbor tugs are first on the list to be attempted, meaning the prospect of autonomous tugs towing and maneuvering autonomous container ships within ports.

Use cases increasing

One of the most exciting digital port developments is taking place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where the port’s 42-kilometer site will be set up to host connected ships. The port will implement IoT technologies and use AI and cloud to drive efficiencies and operational transformation. Tools to be deployed will include centralized dashboards that collect real time water, weather and communications data, analyze it and process it into real-time, useful data that ships and port operators can use to their advantage.

Similarly, the port of Antwerp is leveraging real-time data to drive operational improvement by using NxtPort, an information-sharing platform. Antwerp’s goal is to become a self-sustaining data-commercialization organization that gathers, stores, analyzes and exchanges data with all kinds of parties within its logistics operation. The port of Kalmar in Sweden is transforming how it handles cargo using digital. As part of its 2060 Vision project, Kalmar is planning on moving goods around in smart containers that know their contents and destinations and also deploying drones for continuous predictive maintenance. Kalmar’s aim is to combine AI and human experience and knowledge to create a fully-automated port in time.

“Our goal is making ports and shipping smarter using digital technology, and that includes everything from CRM and HR processes to terminal operations, cranes, asset management and so on,” adds Lee. “To make ports smarter, all this data must be available to everyone, and an easy exchange of data must be enabled. This requires the right infrastructure and a good communications system, using autonomous vehicles and drones for inspection of cranes that are nine stories high and intelligent industrial video analytics, for example. Everything needs to be connected. A smart port will have all the devices, data, and perhaps most importantly, people, connected using digital technology. It is an exciting time for the industry.”

The maritime industry is in a period of rapid digitization. Find out how you can leverage new technologies to transform shipping and ports in this Orange whitepaper. And discover how global IoT services from Orange are enabling Cargotec to develop intelligent cargo handling solutions.