Insight: Four Trends to Watch in 2019


From the increasing use of drones to monitor terminal operations, to the growth of cloud connectivity within smart ports, 2018 was a period of real progress.

So to begin 2019, this piece delves in to the four biggest trends for the New Year, and highlights just how impactful they could be.

2019 is set to see the level of automation at major ports rise, as predicted by TBA’s Dr. Yvo Saanen, and this begs the questions: “What digitization trends will this manifest?” and “How can these new technologies be leveraged?”



The below trends address these key questions:


5G Networks

With an incredibly fast and vast 5G ecosystem developing, which will ensure “the levels of automation and artificial intelligence” necessary to meet growing operational demands, ports and terminals are clearly eager to take advantage of this technological breakthrough.

Hamburg, one of Europe’s top ten ports in terms of container volume, has tested 5G technology as it prepares to become “a hub for next-generation industrial mobile communications”.

According to trials conducted by the port, this technology will support engineers on site to “monitor and optimize construction planning”; in 2019, it is possible that 5G will be applied more directly to day-to-day operations at major ports and terminals striving to become smarter.  

Chris Collins discusses connectivity between ports and landside operations in a recent Port Technology technical paper

The additional connectivity and speed offered by 5G, which has the ability to transfer data safely within milliseconds, could also support the digital transformation of the container shipping industry, linking ports and logistics companies securely as the foundation for a more intelligent supply chain.

5G seems to be the glue that will fix the long-awaited Internet of Things (IoT) in place.



Sensor Technology

The rise of 5G will pave the way for other technologies to emerge and develop, with the flexible and fast network able to function in tandem alongside cellular IoT.

Cellular IoT is a means of connecting physical objects; for ports and terminals, it can be implemented so that port equipment is able transmit data through sensor technology for more independent, automated and efficient operations.

Major companies such as ABB are already investing in the shift towards sensors, a movement that has applications for the container shipping industry beyond the everyday operations of ports and terminals.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), a shipping company committed to innovation, has tested a container tracking management system which employs optical sensors to detect changes in condition, including whether or not the container is opened by an unauthorized party.

Ultimately, ports and terminals will be focused on the amount of data which smart sensors are capable of generating, especially those that wish to develop new services and platforms to take advantage of that information.

Smart sensors are set to be a major subject of discussion at the upcoming Container Terminal Automation Conference (CTAC) in May 2019, now in its fourth year.


For more information about CTAC19, please visit the official conference website and register your interest


Internet of Vehicles

While smart solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT) have been implemented widely at major ports and terminals, powering the drive towards automation, the Internet of Vehicles (IoV) remains at an earlier stage of development.

Nevertheless, this concept could take flight in 2019 to support the more effective management of port traffic, increasing safety by lowering the chance of collisions.

There is already evidence of leading port facilities in Europe integrating IoV technology, with the Port of Valencia and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company working together to integrate a new truck solution from Traxens.

Al Tama discusses how IIoT data can be leveraged by ports and terminals in a recent Port Technology technical paper

MSC’s Spain trucks were equipped with specially designed IoT devices, which tracked the vehicles in real-time to help Valencia predict and prepare for potential arrivals and congestion at the port’s gates.

As Agustina Calatayud states in a technical paper focused upon the connected supply chain, IoT and sensor technology can also be used elsewhere to support vehicles arriving at ports and terminals.

She writes: “Sensors placed on parking spots at logistics and port facilities can generate information on available spots, the best route to reach them, and the expected cost”, which leads to faster delivery times and higher savings for every party involved in the maritime supply chain.



Port Centric Logistics

Although technology could provide the key to higher efficiency and reliability, for the ports and terminals sector, there is also a need for these centres of trade to streamline their own logistics infrastructure.

The rise of port centric logistics in importance is chiefly down to the end-to-end demands of the modern day supply chain.

International mega-firms such as Amazon have changed the expectations of customers when it comes to speed of delivery, meaning the ports that invest in their wider processes and provide a conducive environment for the sorting of goods, before they even enter the wider chain, are sure to achieve much more business.  

Read more: Amazon Takes Half of US E-Commerce

Maritime businesses which can integrate port centric logistics into their everyday operations may find the improvement is equally significant to the positive impact of a new technology, clearing an all-new path for successful ports to follow, and threatening ports who do not keep pace with a loss of business.

PTI is set to publish an e-journal on port centric logistics in its Issue 82, available in February.   


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