Ports 4.0 conference – interview with Tõnis Hunt, lecturer at the Estonian Maritime Academy

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Ports 4.0 conference – interview with Tõnis Hunt, lecturer at the Estonian Maritime AcademyThe Ports 4.0 conference is heading our way, with little over two weeks left until we all meet in Tallinn, at the seat of the Estonian Maritime Academy, to talk all things digitalization in the maritime sector. Tõnis Hunt, lecturer at the Academy and one of the event’s hosts, took some time from his busy schedule to set the stage for the conference in this short interview.

BPO: Digitalization is having an impact on nearly every industry. Could you  briefly explain how this process will affect the maritime sector in  particular?

Tõnis Hunt: Seaborne cargo flows have grown tremendously past decades. In a span of 20 years the transported cargo has doubled, from 5 billion tons in 1997 to 10,3 in 2016.

With every unit of cargo, information- and  documentation flows are accompanied by. Especially in transporting intermodal transport units in which containerflows on sea have tripled in a span of 20 years. Therefore, there is heavy demand for fast, correct and on time information- and document flows and digitalization helps to handle these issues.

Thanks to digitalization there is better planning and control of cargo movement all through the supply chain, maritime transport included, which results in faster transit times and better level of service quality. It enables to process huge amount of information in very short time, for example calculating cargo plan for a container vessel or organizing work in a container terminal.

Digitalization has made the interaction between different parties in port communities or in a wider perspective in supply chain communities possible. Geographical location of different parties is not so important anymore.

With digitalization, we have made digitized information work for us and every step further we discover new possibilities – new business conceptshave emerged, usage of artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality tools, predictive maintenance etc.

Though we have good examples of digitalization in maritime industry – automated solutions interminals, autonomous ships, dynamic route planning – we should be openminded to the ideas from outside.

BPO: Would you say that the ports, globally and here in the Baltic region, are ready for the digital era?

TH: Ports as dynamic nodes in international distribution network have to be ready as there is a lot of pressure and expectations from other parties involved in the supply chain, e.g. shipping companies, shippers etc. Otherwise, they do not have a competitive advantage. Therefore the mindset of using the possibilities that digitalization provides us is really important, especially the mindset of decision makers. And we are there.

BPO: Blockchain is viewed as the gateway to the digitalization of the maritime sector. Is the industry ready to implement the technology or are there other matters that need to be adressed before ports and shipping lines will be able to take full advantage of these solutions?

TH: We’re at the beginning of implementing technologies like blockchain in maritime sector. When implementing such technologies we must be aware of their pros and cons. I do not believe that there exists one ultimate technology which has only pros. It stands also for the blockchain technology. So we have to pay attention to security measures in using such technologies.

As we use more and more digitalization solutions we have to pay more and more attention to cyber security issues. It starts with general cyber hygiene issues of everyday users and understanding that if you haven’t been attacked yet, you will be soon.

BPO: Thank you for your time and see you in Tallinn!


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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been
published since 1999.

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