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What Are Smart Ports and Why Are They Important for The Marine Industry?

  • by: Conor McKeon
  • On: 29, Nov 2018
4 min read

Later to adopt new technology, and still mostly running on crude oil fuel when cleaner alternatives are available, the Marine sector could seem low-tech compared to Aerospace or other transportation industries. But the shipping industry is starting to move into the future by bringing in new smart technology at ports to make them more efficient, streamlined and reliable. This is necessary due to the growing size of the industry, with more ships being produced and transporting vital cargo worldwide.

There are many different parts in the shipping process, all helping to build one of the most vital parts of infrastructure of the global economy, and all of them must work together seamlessly to ensure maximum efficiency. Marine technology is helping to make the cohesion a reality, with multiple platforms working together to bring shipping tech into the 21st century. Here are seven ways that tech is changing the Marine industry.

7 Ways Technology Is Changing The Marine Industry:

1. Smart Ports

Smart ports are integral to worldwide plans to double capacity by 2025 and will help to lower both logistics and operating costs. This is achieved by different technological systems being integrated and working together as one whole organism. Interconnectivity is the difference between a port and a smart port.

2. Sensors

Smart sensors help port authorities and terminal operators track, operate and maintain the physical infrastructure. These sensors can operate in walls and roads and transmit data in real time. This can reduce the need for inspections and even help by showing when maintenance may be needed.

These sensors cost a fraction of the actual structures they monitor and can save money in the long-term by providing a more detailed level of analysis that can flag problems before they arise.

Sensors can also monitor cranes and other cargo handling systems, ensuring peak efficiency and decreasing energy use. This also has obvious uses for port safety and security, keeping cranes properly aligned when loading and unloading, or using sensors to detect anomalies.

3. The Cloud

All data gathered from these sensors can be stored in a cloud-based system. The benefit of this is that all the data is ready and available in one place, can be accessed from anywhere, and can be analysed to discover the best ways to improve the port.

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4. Apps

Certain ports are working on their own specific localised apps, that can allow drivers to know where to go before they arrive or receive updates on shipping timetables. This gives the smart port a high level of control over the information it puts out and can significantly reduce waiting times for cargo deliveries.

5. Blockchain

Whilst more commonly known as the driving force behind cryptocurrency, blockchain has some useful real-world applications. In smart ports, blockchain can store data in multiple locations, reducing the risk of data theft. It can also create secure records to be used by shipping handlers, line managers and customs officials, saving on labour and processing. This technology is being used in both Rotterdam and Antwerp to great success and may soon be more widely adopted through the marine industry.

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6. AI

All these systems can help, but AI is the lynchpin that will make them all invaluable. The amount of data generated by a smart port is too much for even a team of people to analyse – only a Marine AI system can sift through it all and report trends, which can then be translated into protocol.

An AI capable of learning and optimising is infinitely superior to a human being and will be able to turn the smart port into a well-oiled machine, running almost automatically.

7. Augmented Reality

Augmented reality can help Marine business leaders and those working in the industry to interact with the vast amounts of information at their disposal.

Whether accessed through eyeglasses or on smartphones, Marine AR systems will allow human operatives to gain a deeper understanding of anything that’s going on in the port in seconds: whether it’s identifying a ship coming in or seeing what in a container at the other end of the yard. Marine AR can give individuals more control, more agency and more capabilities than they ever could have without it.

How to Build a Smart Port

All these systems can help ports increase productivity, but the size of the port must be taken into consideration before any upgrades. A small local port has vastly different needs to an international trading hub. One port may focus on speed of handling; others may focus on lower environmental impact. However, every port in the world can use the latest Marine technologies to begin optimising the way they do business.

Read more about How Brexit Might Impact the Marine Industry, or learn about How the Marine Industry Is Addressing its Skills Shortage.

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