Digitalising the inland supply chain by building a common data infrastructure is the next crucial step for the maritime and logistics industries’ automation journey.
While data standardisation has been a key topic for some years, larger ports can help smaller ones and those in the critical inland areas to upgrade by leading the way and make the global logistics chain more resilient.
During the session titled ‘Are Ports Ready for Automation’ during the International Ports and Harbor’s (IAPH) World Ports Conference, David Foo, Assistant Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), said, “stakeholders should firstly aim to build an infrastructure benefits the supply chain ecosystem”.
“This will facilitate data sharing, improve process flow efficiency and enable business large and small to plug into the infrastructure easily,” Foo said.
He explained that the next stage should be to increase visibility of cargo flows by allowing stakeholders to share event data and enhance end-to-end logistics planning and asset utilisation.
“These initiatives require close collaboration with industry as well as significant investments and innovation.”
Foo noted that the MPA has developed the Singapore Maritime Data Hub (SG-MDH) to foster data sharing and co-fund various industry use-cases with various stakeholders, including terminal operators.
A growing business
Implementing digital innovation to the inland part of the supply chain is becoming more important for the supply chain as demand has increased pressure on vital infrastructure.
Industry experts have called upon inland terminals and smaller ports to be supported in efforts to utilise smart technologies such as artificial intelligence to make the supply chain more efficient and resilient.
The inland supply chain has become a major area of investment from major carriers and terminal operators looking to become end-to-end logistics providers.
Are ports ready for automation?
Foo noted during the session that if certain standards on data are met it will be easier for the smaller and inland ports to digitalise and keep up with the larger hubs, such as Singapore.
“The infrastructure will already be there, and with collaboration we lift up all ports when they are digitally ready,” he said.
Using the example of Singapore and the constraints of being a small country, Foo said it was still vital for ports with automation project to build contingency plans because automation can still fail for “a number of reasons” and that upgrading is a “long term journey”.
Phanthian Zuesongdham, Head of Division Port Process Solution, Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), agreed that defining common standards was vital for the industry, but that it is a challenge because there “so many initiatives”. She called upon stakeholders to stick to one initiative and share lessons learned.
“Experiences for us are worth sharing as it allows us to gain knowledge of what has been done, including what has failed,” Zuesongdham said.
“In a global supply chain, we all have the same customers and need to work together. We need to serve customers at the same level because when customers can do good business, we can do good business.”