Container terminals have been through substantial technological advances in recent years as operators and authorities look to meet growing demand and stay competitive.
This trend will account for much of the discussion at the Container Terminal Automation Conference (CTAC) event, which will bring together leading terminals and technology providers to discuss the most important issues in the industry .
Speaking to PTI ahead of CTAC, Panagiotis Fragkos, Yard and Gate Superintendent, DP World said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will encourage and “expediate innovation projects” in ports and terminals that will allow for “flexible working while maintaining productivity”.
Fragkos will participate in the ‘Emerging Technologies and How Innovation Projects Translate to Real-World Results’ session on 2 December and will be joined by other panellists from across the world of maritime technology.
The session will focus on which emerging technologies will have the greatest impact on operations in the near and middle-term and where container terminals should invest.
Furthermore, it will also look at which technologies may not be ready for widespread adoption, and examine the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and 5G to collate and utilise the data terminals accumulate on a daily basis.
According to Fragkos, the most successful technologies in the future will be the ones that “allow for more consistency” and, ultimately, cost savings. He also emphasised the importance of terminals working together and with other partners because “collaboration leads to solutions”.
A question within the industry is how the pandemic will affect the speed of implementation of smart technologies and automation.
It has been suggested that while the pandemic has caused uncertainty, demand for consumer goods has not slowed down, which means terminals must process an ever-increasing amount of traffic.
This could lead to terminals spending more on automation and related technologies and force others that are still largely or entirely manual to take the first step. Fragkos said he believes AI could have an impact on operations as it would fit into the “right environment” where automation is already in use.
The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of global trade and intra-region connectivity. DP World has not been discouraged from its global strategy of enabling trade and in its Q3 financial results it reported a volume increase of 3.1% year-on-year, despite its January-September traffic falling.
In October 2020 it signed a historic deal with Bank Leumi to promote the flow of trade from Israel and across the Middle East and beyond. Included in the framework agreement signed was a commitment from DP World to explore digital solutions in end-to-end logistics.
When asked about DP World’s strategy and how it has been affected by the pandemic, Fragkos said: “We have experienced a re-bound in the volumes and the company continues to work towards offering a high quality service.
“The strategy has been altered to adapt to the current environment and people in all levels of management have risen to the occasion.”