A factor that is rapidly increasing and can have important implications for port operations and management is digitalization.

Key technologies supporting digitalization in maritime transport include:

  • Internet of things;
  • Robotics;
  • Automation;
  • Artificial intelligence;
  • Unmanned vehicles;
  • Equipment;
  • Blockchain.

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The application of such technologies in ports includes all aspects of a port business, from operations and planning, to design infrastructure development and maintenance. They also unlock more value that extends beyond traditional cargo-handling activities.

Innovative technologies will likely be felt in ports and can bring changes to loading and unloading operations, storage and industrial processing.

In addition, a review of ports around the world shows that the sector has adopted technology but to a certain extent. For example, scanning technologies are increasingly being used for security and trade facilitation, while automation is being introduced in various container terminals.

What is more, a focus on container port terminals around the world provides a good overview of the actual state of play. Container terminal automation is still at relatively early stages as 97% of the world container port terminals are not automated.

The share of container that are fully automated is 1%, while semi-automated terminals account for 2%.

Moreover, 75% of terminal operators consider automation critical in order to remain competitive in the next 3 to 5 years, while 65% view automation as an operational safety lever.

Over 60% of respondent terminal operators expect automation to help improve operational control and consistency, while 58% expect automation to cut terminal operational costs.

Finally, about one third of respondents see in automation a way to increase productivity by up to 50%, while about one fifth believe that automation could cut operational costs by more than 50%.