The maritime industry constantly evolves by integrating newer technology to switch to automation. It improves operational efficiency and inculcates sustainability. Conventional shipping ports are now being transformed into smart ports in many places to increase productivity and drive profitability. A significant portion of global trade is carried out at shipping ports. Major international ports conduct vast amounts of shipping activities and face multiple challenges to accomplish faster and more efficient trade. They also release significant carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. To tackle these issues, smart shipping ports are upgrading port efficiency and revolutionising shipping.
What are smart ports?
A smart port is an advanced, upgraded shipping port equipped with technology, sustainable infrastructure, operational efficiency, and data-driven decision-making to offer enhanced customer service. Since standard shipping ports were facing many challenges and showed limited productivity and efficiency, the profitability graph couldn’t rise beyond a point. The rise in global warming due to the greenhouse gases accumulated from shipping operations is a growing concern. The climatic change caused the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to take crucial steps and call for the green revolution to add to the sustainability of shipping operations. Therefore, the maritime industry is switching to smart seaports and automated shipping terminals.
Are smart ports environmentally sustainable?
Smart shipping ports add to the sustainability of the supply chain and contribute to the green initiative. It has become crucial to preserve the marine ecosystem and surrounding environment. By reducing shipping emissions and toxicants released into the water, the maritime industry plans to improve the quality of flora and fauna and, simultaneously, reduce hazards to the life of labourers at ports. Switching to smart ports is an effective and ideal solution as it reduces the use of energy resources and the dependency of ports on manual work. International ports with a high frequency of incoming shipping orders utilise a pool of equipment and resources to power up which tons of fuel are required annually. The emissions from vehicles contribute to pollution. Switching to smart seaports minimises these concerns, and maritime operations result in fewer carbon footprints.
Smart ports revolutionising maritime shipping
- Use of big data analytics in smart port– Smart port operations generate immense amounts of data and information regarding shippers, consignees, shipping carriers, operational resources, shipping operations and networks. These vast amounts of data are extracted from systems to analyse data. The filtered insights are beneficial in knowing market trends, customer patterns, and operational efficiency to improve the business and decision-making.
- Use of AI and digital twin in smart ports– Artificial intelligence plays a crucial role in managing port traffic, cargo handling and predicting vessel demand. It helps in smart planning, seamless communication and creating solutions for situational problems. A digital twin is an amalgamation of artificial intelligence and machine learning that builds a virtual entity that reflects the real-world entity. The virtual replica doesn’t need to be of an existing real-world entity. Digital twin helps create simulations to test and validate the working of any product, design or strategy in the real world. Port infrastructures, equipment and vehicle designs, and operational efficiency can be improved manifold times.
- Use of blockchain technology in smart ports– Port operations involve a lot of trade and transactions daily. Maintaining customers’ privacy and securing transactions is a primary need in the trade industry. Blockchain helps automate and streamline finance processes by making them safe, legal and time-saving. Smart seaports work on smart contracts that automate finances immediately after all agreements are finalised. It eliminates any third-party or unreliable transactions through other gateways. Blockchains also store information about all parties involved in shipping and track the life cycle of assets. This vast pool of information can be later accessed by big data analytics.
- Use of GPS, RFID and container tracking in smart ports– IoT sensors, RFID, and GPS are container tracking technologies that help streamline warehousing and logistics processes. Container tracking technology helps in minimising port congestion and cargo handling. GPS and RFID help optimise shipping routes, offer real-time navigation, and prevent delays. Vehicles are fitted with IoT sensors to enable AI-powered predictive maintenance and automate shipping operations. Technology allows faster shipping and less turnaround time, leading to more significant revenues.
Benefits of smart ports
- Regulate traffic flow– Smart seaports can build a communication network between systems to share information about weather forecasts, maritime emergencies, and ship schedules. It helps avoid potential delays at berthing by regulating traffic flow.
- Avoid port congestion– One of the significant causes of delay in port operations is port congestion. Ships and containers have sensors to track their location and get an accurate ETA. Port management can significantly manage congestion by optimising work and shipping schedules and cutting down on yard labour work.
- Improve cargo handling– By switching to automation and AI, smart seaports can minimise manual work and reduce human error risks during cargo handling. Equipment and vehicles assist maritime operations by handling cargo containers efficiently.
- Increased productivity– Powered by technology, smart seaports can enhance their operational efficiency. Data analytics helps in tracking maritime operations to find out any potential failures. It intimates the port management system to make necessary repairs, improve their strategies, and increase productivity in maritime shipping.
- Reduced operational costs– The inclusion of technology in ports has led to minimising labour charges. Smart seaports are built by integrating technologies to carry out almost all shipping operations. They require a one-time investment and occasional repair and management to yield a more significant ROI.
- Boosts global economy– Smart seaports help fast movement of goods across the supply chain. By tracking the containers, ports forecast the ETA and prepare for efficient docking. Cargo handling done by machines helps minimise cargo damage risks and ensures that the quality of goods is preserved. All of this contributes to greater profitability and an enhanced global economy.
Technology has helped upgrade conventional shipping ports into smart ports and increase sustainability, productivity and profitability.
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