Smart Ports



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Maritime Innovations in 21 century

Smart Ports Fraunhofer_Institute_Presentation_by_Ralf_Fiedler

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Smart Ports in Europe, where are we going?

The EU is highly dependent on ports for global trade but also within its internal market. Approximately 74% of goods imported and exported and 37% of exchanges within the EU transit take place through ports [1].

Ports in recent years have introduced automation on land operations with automated cranes and robotic vehicles for transporting and placing containers [2] etc. but there is still much to be done in terms of automating water operations in the wider port area. Operations like approaching vessels through narrow corridors (sea, river, etc.), maneuvering and docking of ships, are still dependent on human skill and ship shore communications. These tasks are very time consuming, not accounting for human errors, which can bear financial costs to the operation of the ports but also environmental costs to the port and wider port area, through ships emissions. Other port operations are not yet automated such as port facilities inspection, port security, bathymetry measurements, oil spill or other pollutant detection and identification, etc. In particular there is a gap in the gate activities and booking systems for trucks, that is still far from a usual practice, and only the terminal with previous truck line congestions have develop systems to solve and management the gates and terminal access.

Current practices in port logistic operation

Port logistics have evolved considerably in the last decade in an effort to minimize downtime of land use, promote better coordination between port and city logistic chains, increase efficiency and promote “paperless” services. European ports are at the forefront of innovation in logistics, with the ports of Hamburg and Rotterdam leading the way. Port of Hamburg has introduced a central platform which informs on traffic, management of space inside the port, estimated arrival time of ships, etc. In this manner it informs all relevant actors. Similar efforts have been put forth from the port of Rotterdam for “paperless” transfer which in the near future will be realized.

This new initiatives aims to capitalize and build on the innovations by introducing RFIDs and other sensor input for all cargo entering the port, in order to track real time each cargo node. Port city interconnection, with real time tracking of road and rail traffic and digital platform for optimization of traffic in and out of port. Furthermore the Digital Platforms developed by the advanced ports, are a web based platform accessible to all relevant actors (port authorities, customers, security, customs, etc.) with different levels of accessibility. In addition to this, the automated waterborne sector and connected all the information which is generated from the Internet of Things to the digital platform. Information is recorded and assessed in the digital platform, such as exact arrival time from the maneuvering and docking procedures, security info and pollution detection and identification. In this manner this digital platforms operate as a central logistic control system for all the port operations.

Internet of Things (IoT) consists of two parts, the “Internet” part which can be considered as a network of networks available everywhere and the “Things” part which comprises of physical objects that can be actuated, sensed and connected and virtual objects that can be stored, processed and accessed.

The IoT network deployment presents a number of challenges in terms of energy consumption, security, bandwidth, signaling and of course cost efficiency. The existing wireless and fixed line network infrastructure currently available in the ports participating in the project will be taken into account. For the sensor network enhancements technologies that combine low cost and energy consumption will be considered like Bluetooth, RFID and Zigbee. Sensor data from the containers will be collected in real-time and forwarded to routers located in the port. For the transmission of the aggregated data from the routers to the port platform a mobile solution (LTE or 3G) can be used or existing network infrastructure (e.g. optical fibers).

What is expected to achieve with port digitalization?

It is expected that the increasing of ICT (information and communication technology) capabilities with massive growth in computational capacity and data storage capabilities, globally accessible networks and cloud infrastructure with increasing bandwidth, availability of smart devises (Internet of Things) and smart and cheap sensors will drive digitalization in all waterborne sectors.

Evolution to full actors, facilities, operations and transactions integration


Xavier Roca is MBA, MSc in Engineering and Ports Director at ALG
Luis Pérez Madariaga is MSc in Supply Chain Management, BSc in Maritime Transport and Ports Manager at ALG
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