U.S. Department of Defense finds new AI solution to secure ports


The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will deploy OStream’s Percept – a software and data transport system – to optimise and manage Vision AI security at its ports.

As the demand for AI-enabled solutions is increasing across the port and logistics sectors, the DoD has always relied on video analytics as key tool to secure its ports.

The new integration of OStream’s software will allow for real-time analytics stored in a unified and private database – preventing fragmented systems and effectively solving workflow problems. The Percept’s hub will enable the DoD to integrate any camera to over 300 market AI services.

© OStream via Youtube

“Vision AI is a strategic initiative at many sites including the Port of Hueneme,” said Alan Jaeger, Director of the NavalX Ventura TechBridge, Department of the Navy.

“OStream has proven that their data infrastructure products facilitate smooth integration of cameras to hundreds of different leading AI providers.”

“The agility to leverage new IoT style cameras as well as existing video feeds is an appealing proposition.”

US ports currently utilise AI solutions to supervise movements and coordination of people, vehicles, and cargo. The DoD has additionally selected several Percept AI service partners as backend providers for object detection, tracking, and correlation.

While Percept is typically used by private IT organisations, OStream has signed an executed Cooperative R&D Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Navy to work together on research and development.

Touching on the deployment of smart technologies, US West Coast ports are in the midst of a clash over automation benefits – as crucial labour talks are expected to take place on 10 May.

One dead after Chinese vessel sinks in Ghana waters

The captain of a Chinese fishing vessel has been found dead after the ship sunk along the Western coast of Ghana – nine members of the crew still missing.

On 7 May, the MV Comforter II fishing vessel sunk in the sea waters between Elmina and Takoradi, Ghana.

The crew reportedly experienced some difficulties while hauling a net that had too many fish in it. Around that same time, unfavourable weather conditions made it impossible for the crew to maintain the ship’s balance.

A rescue mission began with the nearby vessel – Menghxin 6 – later joined by the Ghana Navy.

© Ghana Broadcasting Corporation via Twitter

According to Captain Abdul Nasir of the Ghana Maritime Authority, 16 members of the crew have been rescued and are currently undergoing treatment while 9 remain missing – including the observer on board.

As the vessel has been reported to be quite far from the coast, Nasir stated that chances of finding the sailors are very slim.

Nasir addressed ongoing safety issues with fishing vessels, adding that the incident should prompt actions from owners.

West Coast ports and unions clash on automation ahead of talks

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has released a study extolling the benefits of port automation ahead of labour talks – but unions have argued that resulting increased productivity has enhanced employment disparities.

Paid hours at the automated terminals of Los Angeles and Long Beach have increased 31.5 per cent since 2015, more than twice the rate at non-automated terminals.

Since 2019, automation introduced at terminals has reduced container processing times by half.

The data was published on 2 May in a study led by University of California at Berkeley professor Michael Nacht and commissioned by PMA.

© ILWU via Twitter

“Higher cargo throughput will create port-related jobs and add employment throughout the supply chain. Conversely, failing to adapt threatens to drive cargo to other ports, with a cascading loss of jobs on the docks and throughout the regional economy,” Nacht and co-author Larry Henry wrote on the benefits of automation.

“What’s been proven from the pandemic, or the surge in cargo, is the fact that the facilities that are automated have been much more efficient than conventional terminals,” added Jim McKenna, CEO of PMA, in an interview last month commenting on the ongoing supply-chain crisis in the US.

“What we have really seen is that as these terminals take on significantly more cargo, they are actually taking on more man-hours for longshoremen. It is not an either-or type of situation. Automation is the future.”

The PMA has long fought to introduce automation at its terminals, but has met with criticism from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Despite accepting the terminals’ drive towards to automation, the ILWU has argued that the move would destroy human jobs as increased container volume at automated terminals has been achieved at the expense of other terminals and resulted in loss of employment.

Talks between the PMA and the ILWU are now due to take place on 10 May to produce new labour contracts for 22,000 West Coast dockworkers expiring 1 July.

UK ports air concern over Brexit checks delays

UK port operators have expressed concern over a government delay on Brexit border checks, arguing millions of pounds invested in infrastructure will be wasted if the postponement goes ahead.

According to a written government statement on 28 April, the introduction of physical Brexit border checks on EU food animal product imports will be delayed for the fourth time.

Sanitary and phytosanitary inspections at specially prepared borders infrastructure were due to be introduced in July. However, the government has further delayed the inspections until at least the end of 2023.

The British Ports Association (BPA) and the UK Major Ports Group (UK MPG) have released statements expressing their concerns.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, said that British businesses are being hit by rising costs caused by the war in Ukraine and it would be wrong to impose new administrative burdens.

Commenting on the news, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of BPA, noted how millions of pounds invested in special infrastructure will be wasted.

“Most ports will need to recoup some of their construction and operating costs for their infrastructure and this is traditionally done through levying a charge on importers,” said Ballantyne.

“Ports have been recruiting staff to operate the facilities but now this needs to stop. We are therefore urgently seeking clarification from policy makers if there will be any type of financial assistance or compensation for ports and also if operators can start to bulldoze the facilities and use the sites for other purposes.”

Tim Morris, CEO of UK MPG, also commented: “Many ports have been working incredibly hard and have invested over £100 million of their own money to build a network of brand new border checks to meet the requirements the Government has been insisting on for several years. “

“This now looks like wasted time, effort, and money to develop what we fear will be highly bespoke white elephants.”

“Government needs to engage urgently with ports to agree how the substantial investments made in good faith can be recovered.”

Death at Lyttelton Port prompts investigation

The Lyttelton Port Company, New Zealand, has confirmed the death of an employee during loading operations.

The incident occurred aboard the vessel ETG Aquarius berthed at Cashin Quay on 25 April during coal loading operations.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison said that the incident is under investigation by Maritime New Zealand and the Union.

The staff involved have already had debrief session and are being called in for more in depth interviews starting 2 May. This is a procedure that has had good safety record in the past in Lyttelton according to the Maritime Union.

© Maritime Union of New Zealand via Twitter

The death at Lyttelton port is the second fatality at one of New Zealand’s ports in a week.

Atiroa Tuaiti, 26, died on 19 April while working on a container ship at Ports of Auckland.

National Secretary Harrison said that port unions are calling for national standards in the port industry and he would be campaigning hard to improve health and safety in ports.

“These deaths and serious injuries in the port industry should not be happening, and the controls and processes and culture need to be fixed through national standards,” Harrison said.

Harrison confirmed that the unions have been speaking with the Government, employers, and the Council of Trade Unions over the last few days and to demand a change following Lyttelton’s death.

In a joint statement, unions have expressed their unity and determination to prevent any more unnecessary deaths in New Zealand ports and have stated their willingness to work with the Government’s initiatives.

Following the incident at Lyttelton, Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson addressed the systemic issues in the industry including staffing levels, fatigue due to excessive hours and shift work, productivity pressures, and failures around training and a safety culture.

“Workers have a right to come home safely. These workers are carrying out essential work that our nation depends on. They have been failed by the system,” Butson said.

Port of Durban slowly recovers after flood devastation

Operations at the Port of Durban have gradually restarted after the deadly floods in South Africa earlier this month.

“The port has gradually resumed operations to discharge and food, medical supplies and petrol have been prioritised,” said Sihle Zikalala, Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province, on 24 April.

“Durban, which is the biggest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province, experienced the heaviest rains in six decades.”

The Port of Durban is the biggest container hub in Sub-Saharan Africa and handles 60 per cent of the country’s shipments, contributing as the second biggest source to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Shipping line Maersk has announced its cooperation with Transnet Port Terminal (TPT) to restore Port of Durban’s terminal fluidity at Pier 1 and Pier 2, reportedly sitting at 60 per cent and 78 per cent occupancy respectively as of 19 April.

Maersk has further announced relief packages for its customers as they work to clear the backlog.

© Bloomberg via Twitter

Durban is estimated to lose around 1.8 per cent of annual GDP.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda of the eThekwini Municipality has reported more than R700 million ($44 million) in operational losses.

Premier Zikalala added that South Africa will need R1.9 billion ($121 million) to complete disaster relief work following the devastation on infrastructure.

The government will set up 4,000 temporary residential units by the end of the week, said Zikalala, with more permanent housing expected within six to eight months.

The floods have killed about 450 people and made thousands homeless, while 54 people remain missing.

Unions call for safety standards after Ports of Auckland death

The Maritime Union of New Zealand, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, and the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild have released a joint statement to demand national stevedoring standards after an employee died at the Ports of Auckland.

On 19 April, 26-year-old Atiroa Tuaiti, an employee of private stevedoring company Wallace Investments, died at Ports of Auckland after a fall aboard a container ship.

Following the incident, the unions have jointly written to the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety to address the health and safety crisis in New Zealand ports and call for a national inquiry following several deaths and injuries that have taken place in recent years.

© Maritime Union of New Zealand via Twitter

The Rail and Maritime Transport General Secretary, Wayne Butson, said that the circumstances surrounding the death are being investigated through the appropriate mechanisms.

“Another death in the Ports of Auckland after the last few years is a severe blow and a further sign that something is badly wrong in the port industry,” Butson said.

Butson noted how the incident is not an isolated case.

“This is a systemic issue in the stevedoring industry and not confined to one port or employer.”

He added that unions are now urgently calling for robust and enforceable national standards in health and safety in the ports industry.

“We would expect issues such as hours of work, shift patterns, productivity pressures, training, fatigue, equipment, processes and PCBU responsibilities to be looked at.

“From this process, we would expect an outcome of national standards for stevedoring operations in port health and safety to be developed and introduced in an urgent timeframe.”

In August last year, the Maritime Union filed charges against Ports of Auckland Ltd and an individual in relation to the death of a port worker in 2020.

Port of Durban faces backlog after flood devastation

The South African Port of Durban has resumed operations after last week’s severe flooding, but a backlog of 8,000 to 9,000 containers still needs to be cleared.

The largest port in South Africa halted operations following unprecedented floods last week that killed over 400 people, left 40,000 displaced, and damaged more than 10 billion rand ($663.78 million) of infrastructure.

© World Meteorological Organization via Twitter

Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, said that while the port is now operational backlogs still need to be cleared and that considerable damage to the rail network linked to the port needs to be repaired.

Gordhan estimated that between 8,000 to 9,000 containers have accumulated at the Port of Durban due to logs and other debris stuck in the harbour and congestion should be cleared in the next few days.

He added that trucks could now access the port terminals, which were operating at between 60 per cent and 100 per cent capacity, and that there was no risk of fuel shortages as state logistics company Transnet’s pipeline was operational.

© David Maynier via Twitter

Over the last few days, shipping lines Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have reported that the main road leading to Durban port was severely damaged hence closed, which led to constraints at landside operations at the terminal.

Rail operations have been highly disrupted as well and waterside operations have been interrupted last week due to electricity outages.

Maersk reported further delays across the line on 20 April and notified customers about several call omissions due to the floods.

Russia-Ukraine war: global trade falls by nearly 3 per cent

World trade in March is expected to decline by nearly 3 per cent as a result of the war in Ukraine.

According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the negative consequences originating from the Russian invasion are affecting economies worldwide as the Kiel Trade Indicator’s latest figures show an abrupt downturn.

After more than a month of war, Russia’s increasing isolation has led to the suspension of container ships arriving and departing from its ports.

The Kiel Trade Indicator shows a staggering decline in trade for Russia, with exports shrinking by 5 per cent and imports by nearly 10 per cent.

“The sanctions imposed by the West are clearly having an effect, and the Russian population is facing an increasingly scarce supply of goods from abroad,” said Vincent Stamer, Head of Kiel Trade Indicator.

“Europe’s companies and shipping lines are obviously restricting transport by sea. The same is likely true for trade via the more important road transport, which explains the sharp decline in Russia’s imports.”

© Kiel Institute for the World Economy

At Russia’s three largest ports — St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Novorossiysk — container freight traffic has slumped by half.

Ukraine has suffered the worst and has been cut off from international maritime trade.

Since the outbreak of war on 24 February, large container ships’ calls at the Port of Odessa have completely stopped.

© Kiel Institute for the World Economy

Figures from the Kiel Trade Indicator for March report negative trends for almost all world economies.

Data for China show signals of stagnation, with imports up by 0.9 per cent and exports down by 0.9 per cent.

“The lockdown of the Shanghai metropolitan region, where mainly electronic goods are produced for export, is not yet clearly reflected in the trade figures for March. Probably also because the port there continues to operate,” Stamer added.

“Future disruptions in China’s trade are by no means off the table, however, partly because the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is still rampant.”

Declines in exports (-5.6 per cent) and imports (-3.4 per cent) have been projected for the EU economy as well, whilst in the US exports are expected to fall more sharply by 3.4 per cent than imports by 0.6 per cent.

ONE: Shanghai lockdown extension stunts inland supply chains

Ocean Network Express (ONE) has announced the possibility of delays across the supply chain due to the extension of the lockdown in Shanghai.

Despite operations remain active at the Port of Shanghai, the company has notified customers that trucking availability is very limited at the moment and the clearance of import cargos has been impacted as a result.

Due to reported constraints in the yard side, the Yangshan and Wai Gao Qiao PH2 terminals have been impacted the most and Dangerous Goods and Reefer may not be allowed to discharge if the quantity cannot be accommodated.

The company has announced that it will arrange alternative discharging operations if congestion escalates further and it will keep monitoring the situation.

Shipping line Maersk also reported that some depots in Shanghai will remain close until further notice.

The municipal health commission of Shanghai reported 311 confirmed locally transmitted cases and 16,766 local asymptomatic carriers on 5 April.

The city began its two-stage lockdown on 28 March, whilst other terminals across China have been shut down earlier.