Smart ports, as important nodes in the global supply chain, have the opportunity to establish themselves as logistics information exchange hubs serving their regional transport ecosystem. As ports digitalize their processes, they also establish a platform for providing benefits to other participants in the cargo, freight, and passenger ecosystems. In a society where bandwidth and connectivity are growing, more data will be generated along with new services and many new opportunities. A landscape of new revenue-generating information services enabling carriers, shippers, and other players to significantly improve their operational predictability, efficiency, visibility, and capacity utilization is now opening.
Giant First Steps: Data-Powered Operational Gains
Ports and supply chains involve thousands of independent companies and individuals depending on each other's policies, plans, and actions to effectively make the right business decisions and run operations. The smart port uses digital data streams to boost collaboration, align activities, and make decisions that improve vital processes across their operations. Some of the trends that we see now are:
- smart technologies informing about conditions and the utilization of physical infrastructures, such as roads, bridges, railroads, depots, terminals, warehouses. For example, cost-effective sensors are installed in or along, quay walls, roads, railways, and bridges transmitting real-time data about operating conditions. This also enables the port to proactively identify needed maintenance or repairs and thereby avoid unplanned downtime.
- cargo handling that is digitally connected and helping ports to increase their handling capacity and productivity by ensuring that stacking cranes, straddle carriers, forklifts, and other equipment are correctly maintained and operate at peak efficiency. This also includes the automatic identification and detection of containers.
- appointment systems for sea-borne and intermodal traffic are introduced to enable just-in-time arrivals, as well as trucking carriers reserving specific times for dropping off or picking up freight.
- the introduction of digital tools for providing notifications on sea and land borne carrier movements within or closely associated to the port, via GPS-based traffic monitoring systems and traffic monitoring sensors along major port roads.
- the use of digital technologies in safety and security to protect port employees, facilities, and assets. This covers entrance authorization, video surveillance and analytics, behavior analysis, anti-theft and anti-fraud, and biometric authentication solutions, and sensor-based systems that help vehicles and cargo-handling equipment to be properly aligned for safety, physical and cyber security
- the use of digital solutions to help identify, monitor, and aggregate data needed to support environmental and regulatory compliance initiatives, including the reduction of energy consumption through motion-sensitive lighting systems within terminals and on port roads, and air quality sensors enabling government inspectors to receive real-time sulphur dioxide emissions reports from vessel when they enter or leave a port.
- smart assets taking the digital age of shipping one step further beyond paperless processes by embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) to support enhanced decision-making by the various sectoral stakeholders.
These developments provide examples of how a port and its actors become a significant data source for a multitude of parameters that support both an environmentally sustainable and value creating transport system.
A port’s value creation needs to capitalize on data for optimal performance
A port is a self-organized ecosystem within the larger self-organized ecosystem of the global shipping industry. Both depend on distributed collaboration and coordination. A port is in a system of engagement for the coordination and collaboration among its various actors. This means that each actor’s operations are dependent on their capability to utilize the necessary blend of data from others within the port to optimize operations. Each actor in a port needs to contribute to and access up-to-date situational awareness to achieve a collective and mutually beneficial level of efficiency. A port is also a series of systems of production as its various actors each conduct routine operations for ships, passengers, and cargo handling. The efficiency of these system of production is critical to a port’s success.
Numerous initiatives are now building upon the emerging principles of digital collaboration and standardized data sharing. The PortCDM concept, the UN/CEFACT Smart Container project, and Port Call Optimization, are all examples. Their purpose is to improve the speed and predictability of operations by applying just-in-time thinking and door-to-door visibility of the trip execution. As natural parts in the transport chain, ports are also become natural data hubs for (internal and external) complex partner networks providing elements of data for supply chain visibility. Both systems of engagement and production generate data for a system of records, such as data on agreements made for services and reports on the productive fulfillment of these agreements, as well as the status of goods, infrastructure used, and resources. A system of record, combined with appropriate internal and external data, may be used in a system of inquiry, such as data analytics, to generate knowledge to enable more efficient use of a port’s capacity.
Ports are well placed to emerge as powerful information exchange hubs deploying data captured from shipping lines, trucking, and logistics, and off-dock storage providers to increase the efficiency of the overall maritime transportation ecosystem. The information produced by a system of inquiry helps to position a port’s role in the transportation system in terms of the services it provides and how it refines these over time to meet changing needs. The emergence of the smart port concept exemplifies how a port needs to apply a systematic approach to framing its purpose to continually redefine roles to meet the changing needs of its customers and actors. In a port environment, this virtuous interaction among these different systems levels of engagement, production, records, inquiry, and framing are combined to create value.
Following this line of thought, the following figure depicts the inter-relations resulting from the port being a consumer and producer of digital data streams that provide a foundation for analytics.
The enhanced value proposition of the Smart Port
The port has traditionally been a transshipment hub. Now there is the opportunity for the port to become an information hub, providing services to diverse existing and new clients. The port’s system will be a microservices data oriented layer invoking different services via standard APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and exposing a rich set of services to the whole ecosystem. Some examples are the provision of:
- Smart container services (such as Traxens) providing all the stakeholders in the logistic chain with door-to-door visibility of the trip execution and cargo monitoring. The benefits of smart containers on the whole ecosystem is detailed in UNECE Smart container white paper and the UN/CEFACT Smart Container Business Requirements Specifications BRS
- real-time situational awareness to seaborne and land-based carrier operators reducing CO2 emissions and improving energy and operations efficiencies.
- additional insights to freight forwarders and other transport buyers to guide cargo over the best available transport modes and efficient routes.
data on the progress to downstream ports allowing them to optimally plan their resource utilization. This is especially important in short-sea shipping enabling optimized capacity and achieving shorter, reliable transit times.
Smart ports must include secure, trusted environments by which carriers, shippers, port communities, customs, governance, financial, and other actors can securely access data related to their needs while abiding by global cybersecurity and data sovereignty laws. These environments can leverage data to create intelligent, automated applications and services that will support real-time decisions and asset control for the port as well as all members of the transportation ecosystem. Standards are key as well, since agreed-upon data flows with syntax and semantics will enable stakeholders to connect and invoke third-party services in their business process workflows. The creation of a standard data model of all the exchanged data within the port will enable development of standardized APIs. With standard APIs available to the industry, stakeholders will benefit from an explosion of new capabilities for connecting and integrating data across the intermodal supply chain ecosystem. The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) is a proof that shipping companies are willing to collaborate and they need standards APIs to be able to collaborate. This will promote innovation (for example, the creation of new value-added services by merging relevant but previously unavailable sources of data).
The future is near
The new technology foundation of smart ports, smart ships, digital rail, smart containers, smart contracts, and many other intelligent systems connected through a port's digital information hub, will unlock huge gains in value. New business models and powerful analysis capabilities provide can enable transparency into the status of goods, infrastructure, and resources which is high on the agenda for the maritime transport sector. Instant visibility into shipping and cargo enables customers to make decisions faster and with more confidence. In this journey, smart ports, as evolving intelligent, highly sophisticated information hubs, are needed to revolutionize the global transport system.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
About Hanane Becha, TRAXENS & UN/CEFACT
Dr. Hanane Becha is a key member of TRAXENS, defining the Standards Strategy enabling smart containers. Hanane has received a Ph.D. and an M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Ottawa, as well as a B.Sc. from l’Université du Québec en Outaouais. She is currently the project leader of the smart container project at the UN/CEFACT under the Transport and Logistics Domain. She worked for the Nortel Strategic Standards development team between 2006 and 2009, leading the creation of Nortel-wide standards strategy for SOA and Web Services and actively participating in the development of SOA related standards and specifications. She focused on identifying and filling gaps in standards for using SOA principles in mission critical applications. Hanane led the Object Management Group (OMG) Telecom Special Interest Group initiative. She is the editor of multiple documents at the International Telecommunications Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) which deal mainly with "IPTV Services Requirements", “Open Service Environment capabilities for NGN”, and “Ubiquitous Sensors Networks”.
About Mikael Lind, RISE (Research institutes of Sweden)
Mikael Lind is an Associate Professor and Senior Strategic Research Advisor at Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), and has initiated and heads a substantial part of several open innovation initiatives related to ICT for sustainable transports of people and goods. He is also part time at the Chalmers University of technology (M2), Sweden, exploring the opportunity of maritime informatics as a an applied research field. As RISE Viktoria is the second largest partner of the STM Validation project (43 Meuro), he's substantially involved in this project and is also responsible for the PortCDM testbed in which PortCDM is run in real-life tests in 13 Ports in Europe, and is one of the founders of Maritime Informatics for applied research of digitising the maritime sector.
About Francois Bottin, CMA CGM
Experienced Head Of Digital with a demonstrated history of working in the maritime industry. Strong professional skilled in Management, IT Strategy and Delivery.
About André Simha, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company SA)
André Simha and his team are responsible for implementing and developing the complex data flow between the company’s headquarters and their agencies around the globe as well as steering their business towards the digital future of the shipping and logistics sector. He joined MSC in 1987 and has been responsible for implementing and developing the complex data flow between the company’s headquarters and its agencies worldwide. Between 2000 and 2014, André also served as a Director of the world’s largest multi-carrier ecommerce network for the ocean shipping industry, INTTRA. He is currently spearheading an initiative to centralize MSC’s detailed Information Systems. The OneVision program sees André leading a team of experts – based around the globe – in standardizing processes and management information. MSC is a privately owned shipping line, founded in 1970. It is now the world's second largest container carrier and employer to more than 60,000 people.