Smart and sustainable – digital solutions for ports discussed at the Transport Week in Gdynia

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The ninth edition of the Transport Week conference concluded today in Gdynia, Poland. The conference, which took place on 5-7 March, 2019, focused on topics related to the state of the market of the port industry and current and upcoming port investments, as well as the innovative processes which will drive the development of the port sector in the future.
Second day’s focus was the ongoing digitalization of the port industry. Isabelle Ryckbost (ESPO) stated that digitalization is well on its way to disrupt the way we do business today. It affects multiple areas of port activities, impacting safety and security, while also enhancing environmental performance. It is a very efficient way for information sharing between various stakeholders and helps to pave the way for automation. That said, data sharing is a process built on trust. Ryckbost mentioned ports as the ideal, neutral matchmakers, perfectly positioned to connect the parties involved in the logistics chain.

There are challenges though, that need to be addressed for the process of digitalization to happen smoothly. There might be a need for a legal framework, which raises the issue of how it is supposed to look like. GDPR showed that some policies can go too far, possibly limiting the beneficial effect of data sharing. It is also crucial to not forget about the smaller ports. Digitalization is a process that will become obligatory, meaning that parties won’t be able to opt out of if they wish to remain competitive. 

Smart ports are a concept closely associated with the digitalization process. Kris Kosmala (Royal HaskoningDHV) characterized a smart port as one that has a positive impact on the collaboration within the supply chain, leverages solutions provided by digitalization to assure a competitive position and perhaps most importantly – carefully manages its available resources (e.g. people, equipment, land).

It is impossible to implement all solutions brought by digitalization at once. A smart approach carefully considers the available tools and picks ones most fitting to its current needs. An attempt to solve all problems at once eventually leads to overextension of resources and loss of value. Accessibility, informative value, sustainability and streamlining are all qualities of a smart project. There is a clear interest in doing things the smart way, also reflected in the diversity within the client pool. Container terminals are often cited as the main beneficiaries of smart or digital solutions, but it goes far beyond that, with other cargo types (e.g. general cargo, dry bulk) or terminal types (e.g. cruise, ro-ro), as well as port authorities and local governments looking to gain value from the opportunities digitalization brings to the table.

According to Jan Gardeitchik (Port of Rotterdam), changing the way ports are perceived takes imagination. They should be viewed as facilitators, adding value across the whole supply chain. There is still a huge amount of benefits to be gained in logistics, with 30% of shipments being delayed or 25% of empty trucks crisscrossing the countryside on a regular basis.
As already mentioned, digitalization should happen step by step. Starting on port authority level, through integration of parties active within the port thus building a well-connected port community and expanding towards a port ecosystem also encompassing the hinterland, we can eventually gain a basis for connecting ports and communities globally. And benefits are plenty – lower emissions, higher transparency, faster transit times or optimal use of existing infrastructure – all leading to solid financial gains.
Ports and the maritime sector aren’t the only industry enjoying a large influx of technological innovations. Przemek Myszka (Baltic Transport Journal) gave an overview of a variety of tech solutions for the maritime, rail and road industries.

The buzz around autonomous vessels is becoming increasingly louder, an important element of the perhaps not so far future of the maritime industry. Rolls-Royce are one of the pioneers in this area, having recently opened a new R&D center, with autonomous vessels as its focus. A project worthy of a closer look is the YARA Birkeland, the first fully autonomous and zero-emission cargo vessels. The ship is set to enter service in Q1 2020, initially sailing with crew present onboard and later on switching to remote operations to eventually run on its own.
The rail industry also enjoys its fair share of technological advancements. DB Cargo stands out as one of the leading companies, utilizing big data in its telemetric solution for rail cars. The system can measure humidity or axel load, helping to improve and simplify maintenance of the rolling stock, increasing safety and therefore allowing to avoid unnecessary risks and associated costs.

Truck platooning, the next big think in the road transportation. The solution has actually been around for a while now, steadily gaining more and more interest. It allows vehicles to “talk” to each other in real time, promising lower fuel consumption due to lesser aerodynamic resistance. It also decreases the wear on drivers, an important port considering the shrinking employee pool. It might help the profession to regain some appeal.

The audience had the chance to take an in-depth look into one of the innovative solutions in use at the Port of Gdynia. Wojciech Tycholiz (NavSim) welcomed the participants onboard one of MAERSK’s vessels as it entered the port. The process of piloting the vessel during this highly precise maneuver was supported by a Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS). The system provides differential corrections and integrity verification, vastly improving the accuracy and integrity of a GPS tool. GBAS solves the vessel size dilemma, accommodating all berthing positions thus being a service available for the entire port area and is equipped with jamming and spoofing detection tools, making it a future-proof solution.

The Transport Week will return in March 2020 for its 10th anniversary, marking 10 years of discussions exploring the various elements governing the development of the transport industry and sharing of experience between parties active in every corner of this highly dynamic sector.

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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
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