Ports are digitizing and preparing for their transformation to face the logistical and commercial challenges of the 21st century. Data, ecological transition, mobility, etc., are all priority issues. Explanations.
Shipping runs about 80% of trade in goods in the world by volume and 70% in value. Maritime transport is expected to grow by 3.2% per year between 2020 and 2022, according to a study carried out by the firm Wavestone. Thus, all of these containers pass through at least two ports, if not more. As a real hub of globalization, ports face the need to adapt to major economic, ecological, and contemporary citizen challenges: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improvement of logistics efficiency, multimodal transport, development of an approach collaborative and digital are all issues to be tackled head-on. Let’s find out together how to think about the Smart Port of tomorrow.
What is a Smart Port?
The objective of the Smart Port is to put technology at the service of the port. Why is this essential? 72% of French imports and exports are carried out by sea transport, according to Wavestone.
Smart ports respond to economic challenges by adapting infrastructures and their services to accommodate as many ships as possible. The transport, handling, storage of goods, and support activities can be streamlined thanks to new technological solutions.
Smart ports also meet ecological imperatives. For this, engineers are counting on the growth of big data and artificial intelligence. The data collected makes it possible to save energy where possible, to limit the negative externalities of port activity on the environment. It is possible to promote the circular economy thanks to the very large economic ecosystem present within the ports.
Finally, smart ports respond to citizen issues. Working at the port no longer means living near the port. The Smart Port makes it possible to rethink the relationship between the citizens of a region and port activity. The Smart technologies also reflect on better integrating the city and citizens with the port.
What are the solutions provided by Smart Ports?
Transportation is the first activity disrupted by the arrival of Smart solutions. New traffic representation software is emerging and collects data via Bluetooth, video, or radio. The traffic information is recorded in real-time and transmitted without delay to all stakeholders. This makes it possible to assign an unloading dock automatically to a ship, and parking lots to trucks coming to collect the goods.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning have made it possible to develop solutions for modeling spaces and streamlining flows. For example, the port of Rotterdam has its “digital double” thanks to a collaboration with the IT giant IBM. It provides a better understanding of under-exploited or over-exploited areas in order to harmonize intra-port flows and make traffic more fluid.
It only takes a minute to dock the ship in a completely safe manner. The docks can also be equipped with sensors and cameras to signal a possible misplacement of the vessel, which could hamper the unloading of goods. Also, the port of Shanghai has created a solution to guide the lifting gantries directly to the ship it has to unload and, conversely, to the place in the port where it has to unload the goods. For 2 years, the port of Singapore has been testing a drone delivery service for port infrastructure.
For the traceability of the goods, it is possible to use NFC or RFID chips to know the position of the goods in real-time. The blockchain acts as a support to store and transmit information quickly and securely.
For storage, it is possible to use collaborative robots (“cobots”) or intelligent forklifts to facilitate the storage of goods.
These innovations are only a non-exhaustive selection of the many innovations at work in Smart Ports.