Port of Rotterdam Part 4: What is a Smart Port?


Ports aiming to become smarter must complement their physical operations with digital processes, according to the Port of Rotterdam.

In the final instalment of a three-part interview, which has seen Rotterdam’s Director of Digital Business Solutions underline emerging trends for ports and terminals in 2019, Joyce Bliek focuses on how smarter operations can produce better results.

As technology develops, and the global supply chain becomes increasingly digital, there is a necessity for ports to become a “digital node” within that infrastructure.

In this respect, Bliek echoes the thoughts of Kalmar’s Director of Terminal Automation Jari Hämäläinen, who argues that the “exponential growth” of digital technology is placing pressure on the port sector to adapt. Those which fail to do so could be left behind.

Vincent Campfens, Port of Rotterdam, discusses digital ports in a recent Port Technology technical paper

The benefits of adopting a dual-approach that encompasses both the physical and the digital, as Bliek explains, are considerable, especially for the testing and optimization of physical infrastructure.

Building a quay wall for instance, without the support of digital twin technology and predictive analysis, could be very costly, whereas testing the structure’s functionality before it is constructed offers a much clearer insight as to what impact a major investment like this could have.

Money saved through digitalization can be used elsewhere to fund key maintenance and infrastructure projects, allowing the port to hone its focus on improving the efficiency of its operations.



Ports also need to consider the future demands of the industry; as Bliek points out, Rotterdam will soon have to receive autonomous vessels that have no crew members on board.

The port, which has already launched a project to research autonomous navigation, must be able to communicate with these ships as they approach, ensuring safe and efficient berthing for the purposes of maintaining a smooth and reliable supply chain.

The importance of digitalization for the port sector is a subject that will be explored at future Smart Port conferences: read our review of last year’s event to find out why these discussions are crucial.

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