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What are Smart Ports and how is it gonna change the Shipping Industry in the Future?

The good old maritime industry is starboarding towards a new age of technology. A general notion regards the ports and maritime industry as fairly underdeveloped or you can say hardly-digital industry that has retained the old ways. Some even believe that the old ways would be consistent and no big changes are destined for the maritime forefront. All this might be true until a few years ago, but we are at the dawn of digitally-powered seafaring. Those mariners with the foresight and willingness to embrace the digital curve of the maritime industry are in for a bright future!

Ports these days are still operated in the old ways, having a lot of manual work, long waiting hours, tons of cargo processing challenges. All these problems have one sure-shot solution that will not only make the port operations efficient but will also help in significant cost-cutting. Let’s understand this properly, shall we?

What are Smart Ports?

Just as the name indicates, a smart port is a port that adopts smarter ways by leveraging advanced technologies and digitalization to optimize port operations. Smart Ports are meant to make the ports ‘smarter’ by simplifying the port procedures & cutting costs.

A smart port may use the following technologies –

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI):
    Many of the existing ports like Rotterdam use Artificial Intelligence as reducing human errors and to find ease in executing the most complex algorithms. Machine Learning does the work here, in learning the day to day operation details and coming up with optimized solutions.
  2. Big Data:
    With a drastic increase in maritime activities since the last decade, massive amounts of data are generated which are too heavy for the traditional software to process. This is where the concept of Big Data comes into the picture. Big Data systems are efficient and powerful enough to process these gigantic amounts of data & convert them into valuable information. This technology will also help port operators to generate predictive insights & come up with better solutions.
  3. Blockchain:
    Blockchain is a technology that can be used to provide security and encryption to all the transactions that happen around the ports. First used in 2008 for cryptocurrencies like BitCoin, now this technology has multiple applications. This technology can effectively elevate the security procedures at ports making every transaction secure.

Internet of Things (IoT):
The Internet of Things is a powerful technology that is going to revolutionize many sectors of trade. This technology has already had a large contribution to building smart ports. The ability of IoT to establish interconnectivity between devices enables remote access to most of the digital equipment installed at a port.  Furthermore, IoT can do wonders in tracking real-time data.

Although these technologies are going to change the landscape of the ports today, currently they don’t replace the essence of human labor. These technologies are going to make the job faster, efficient, and economical but they won’t achieve complete automation. Port actors will be needed to embrace this digitalization & work hand-in-hand with these technologies to make gold!

With the emergence of such technologies, and imbibing them with the current traditional ports, the shipping industry is bound to change. As Ms. Joyce Bliek, the Director of Digital Business Solutions at Port Rotterdam claims, technology is going to be the ‘digital twin’ of a physical port. This collaboration of physical ports and technologies well-embraced & understood is set to take the maritime industry to new heights.