Be a Smart Port City of Call!

Port of Rotterdam Authority, Photographer: Eric Bakker

Over the years, ports have constantly evolved and embraced innovation to stay relevant. Just think about the advent of the bridge crane and shipping containers, which radically transformed how materials were shipped and handled.

Once again, the winds of change are blowing. Homogenous competition among ports is forcing operators to think about value innovation. With Brexit coming down the tracks and the US negotiating new global trade agreements, things look set to become even more complex. The current business model of seeking competitive advantage and profitable growth by focusing on loading and unloading services is no longer sustainable.

Port transformation initiatives

Competition aside, ports also must manage environmental protection requirements, security concerns (both cyber and physical) data protection and visibility/traceability of client assets. As a result, all major ports have begun to explore transformation initiatives to differentiate their offering and gain competitive advantage.

IoT connectivity solutions

We’re already seeing some of the top players implement IoT solutions to deliver traffic management systems, automation and digital invoicing (customs). For example, in Finland, port operator, Steveco in the Port of HaminaKotka is using a private LTE network provided by Nokia and Ukkoverkot and running on Dell Edge Gateways.

This dedicated low-latency network enables wirelessly connected cameras on cranes to provide real-time video streaming and analytics, as well as business-critical connectivity for trucks, sensors and workers. Through the new connectivity, the port operator has seen improvements across multiple areas, from improved situational awareness of container handling to warehouse logistics and port security. Read more about the solution here.

Maintenance solutions

Another customer’s solution analyzes voyage data, equipment data, and network structures to optimize overall operational performance for ship owners, partners and customers. Increasingly, we’re also seeing condition-based maintenance systems – equipment monitoring in real time to remotely service products via the Internet, so parts can be swapped out at the next port of call in order to reduce the ship’s operational down-time and avoid costly delays.

Other examples include 3D printing and using Augmented Reality to intuitively guide ship repairs by technicians without expert knowledge of the individual ship’s system.

Smart ships with automatic berthing

Along with reduced workload in the engine room due to cleaner fuels, I believe that all these advances will allow further reductions in minimum crew sizes. As a result, ports can expect to see smart ships that can be managed and maintained from a central base of operations. Think automatic collision avoidance, automatic berthing, a self-monitoring hull, engine and cargo; the ability to sail autonomously for a limited time in certain conditions and even no-crew drones for specific applications, such as short-distance ferries, tugs and fireboats.

Semi-autonomous barges

The city of Delft in the Netherlands is a great example. Here, Dell Technologies OEM & IoT and Nokia have teamed up on a digital city project to deliver goods, using semi-autonomous, hydrogen-powered barges on existing canals for ‘last mile’ transportation. The project uses world-class technologies from Dell and Nokia for compute, storage, data management, connectivity, analytics, IoT and blockchain. Testing will progress through 2019 with goal of becoming fully operational by the end of the year.

The good news is that this will help reduce city center truck congestion and carbon emissions. If you’re interested in learning more, read all about the initiative here.

Intelligent planning

I also envisage that intelligent planning based on AI-assisted data analytics, will manage complex variables such as optimal sailing routes, vessel speed and fuel consumption, upcoming weather fronts and on-board weight distribution. Of course, from a staffing perspective, all of these developments will demand new skills and training.

Meanwhile, operational decisions at the port will also be data driven. AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a great example. This is a satellite-based data exchange allows the tracking of virtually all cargo ships for vessel routing, considering the weather, traffic situation and port capacities along the route.

Becoming a smart port?

The next big question is how, do you become a smart port? What do you invest in? How is it defined?

In my view, piecemeal IoT projects – while positive – will not make your port smart. Rather, systemic demands a major mind-set change. Ports need to look outside, focus on global security risks rather than local interests, and think about the efficiency and sustainability of the entire shipping logistics value chain.

Big picture view

A supermarket cold chain case study is a classic example of how end-to end business collaboration for a smart port city might inter-connect and work. This starts with the shipper of the goods in the country of origin. Say, a banana producer moves to smart reefers and container tracking delivered by a shipping company, through to the arrival of the goods in the port of destination (customs clearance), to the hoisting of the container using smart cranes, to the transfer of the container to an IoT-tracked truck, to end delivery to the stock room in the supermarket, to bananas on the shelves and finally on your favorite breakfast cereal.

I believe that to become a smart port, all stakeholders need to take this big picture, banana-from-the-tree-to-the-cereal view. It’s no longer enough to just deliver your piece in the value chain. Every single piece must fit together like a jig saw puzzle and work together in harmony.

Collaboration is the name of the game

It’s wonderful to see that some great, joined-up initiatives are already taking place. At Hamburg, for example, connected-port initiatives are helping to double capacity— but not space — by 2025, simultaneously reducing operating costs for operators and logistics costs for cargo owners.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam’s interconnected information hub, the Portbase Port Community System, offers a one-stop shop for logistics and information exchange that addresses the needs of all stakeholders, from port customers through terminal operators and service providers. Rotterdam even uses 3D printing technologies to support the maintenance and repair of parts and accessories.

Put your port on the map

In summary, I believe that ports now have a unique opportunity to reposition themselves, redefine their business model and become smart and connected. According to McKinsey, if policy makers and businesses get it right, linking the physical and digital worlds could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value by 2025. However, McKinsey makes the valid point that you need to know where and how to invest.

Collaborating with a tier 1 technology partner with the right expertise and track record is the right navigation route. Our maritime business was set up to support customers like you reinvent their business models.

Nokia will be showcasing connectivity solutions built on Dell technology at TOC Europe 2019 in Rotterdam, June 18-20. Come meet the team and see for yourself!

Are you looking to make your port city smart? What are your views. We’d love to hear from you!

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