Taken together, and with the right enabling pre-trade and pro-investment policy frameworks from Government, these developments would build further the powerhouse ports needed for Brexit Britain, boosting the UK’s ability to trade with the world.
The survey highlights a number of developments in the digital and augmentation / automation areas to transform competitiveness and customer propositions. These build on continued evolution of the physical assets of ports, their hinterlands and their connectivity with main economic and urban areas. And these changes must occur within an environment of sustainability and responsibility.
- The future, today – It is already possible to point to real, commercial scale examples in the UK’s major ports of what some might characterize as a future state – transition to a low carbon future, remotely operated equipment, sophisticated data platforms, etc.;
- Harnessing the data and digitisation revolution – The UK’s major ports see significant potential for the greater availability and use of data to drive more efficiency and create new businesses and services for customers. Advanced analytics can bring great predictive power to logistics chains as well as operations and maintenance. The generation and facilitation of data streams will be an increasingly central part of the customer proposition. Major ports can act as global gateways for data as well as physical cargoes;
- Augmentation, not just automation – It seems fashionable to focus debate around autonomy, when augmentation of human operation is driving continued significant productivity improvements – productivity that in many cases full automation currently struggles to match. And there is further potential for increased augmentation;
- Making the future work for people – Economy wide developments such as major technology changes pose questions for society as a whole. Ports are no exception. These challenges must be addressed responsibly. But there are opportunities from technology change, such as a safer working environment. And ports will remain important sources of good jobs and catalysts of wider employment; and
- Setting a framework for a fast-evolving future – 2050 is 32 years into the future. 32 years ago in the past Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavik to talk about Glasnost. A lot can change in 32 years. The future for ports is difficult to predict with total confidence. What is important is that there is a flexible policy and regulatory framework, beneath a consistent pro-trade and pro-investment direction of travel, that allows port owners and operators to react to opportunities and challenges as they emerge.
Tim Morris, Chief Executive of the UK Major Ports Group said:
At the heart of our input to Government is a determination that ports will play as crucial a role in the 4th industrial revolution as they have in its predecessors, enabling the UK to trade with the world. We look forward to working with Government and others to develop the right policy and regulatory frameworks for the long term to make this potential a reality, boosting even further the considerable value that major ports contribute to the UK.