Ports in the Cloud: The Next Step in Automation?
As ports and terminals strive for greater connectivity, and seek the most efficient means of transitioning to automated processes, could there be a solution which facilitates this change?
Cloud-based platforms for collaborative planning, such as the XVELA service recently implemented by two Brazilian terminals, enable trade hubs to share real-time information for the benefit of higher operational efficiency.
However, data sharing and collaboration are not the only positive differences that can be achieved through the cloud.
The Port of Antwerp, as part of its “Smart Port Vision”, has outlined how the drive towards automation is also being powered by cloud-based technology.
The “Echodrone”, a fully autonomous sounding boat which guarantees the safe passage of container ships on arrival and departure, is just a prototype for now, but its ability to collect and translate data, enabling self-navigation, demonstrates the immense potential of cloud connectivity.
Cloud connectivity also provides a platform for IoT operating systems, allowing for communication within ports as well as between ports.
In July 2018, software providers Infosys and Siemens announced that their own cloud-based IoT operating system, MindSphere, was in development.
The platform, which has wide applications across the manufacturing, transportation and logistics industries, links industrial machinery to a “digital system”, leveraging data for computerised analysis and creating an environment in which the yard is fully connected.
David Moosbrugger explores how intelligent data systems are being used in ports in a recent Port Technology technical paper
Automation via the Cloud
Al Tama, who has analysed the applications of IoT within an industrial space, argues that “logistics and transport are entering a time of transformation both on land and at sea”.
Part of the reason for this is the increasing implementation of cloud-based platforms, both in ports and across the wider supply chain.
At the Port of Rotterdam, as former CFO Paul Smits underlines, the cloud is being combined with sensor technology to “prepare the 42-km port area for autonomous shipping”, a vital component of a more intelligent supply chain.
Working alongside IBM, which will use its cloud technology to collect and translate data into valuable insight, Rotterdam expects to boost the safety, precision and speed of the mooring process, reducing waiting times and cutting costs.
Rotterdam could be viewed as a proving ground for the benefits of cloud-based platforms, which are expected to optimize and improve performance at ports and terminals by providing a more transparent overview of cargo handling operations.
Dr Leonard Heilig and Prof Stefan Voß discuss how to boost the supply chain through collaboration and interconnectivity in a recent Port Technology technical paper
Meeting the Digital Twin
The cloud is clearly an effective base for the collection and translation of useful data, but “reliable IoT connections between vessels, control centres and applications”, as demonstrated by CargoSmart’s Solace platform, can create insight that is far more powerful.
Digital twin technology, which allows shippers, port authorities and terminal operators to simulate both regular and emergency scenarios, can improve the responses of these key maritime players to operational challenges.
By providing a “virtual representation of physical assets”, the cloud-empowered digital twin helps to form a supply chain which is adaptable and ready to evolve, as well as ports and terminals which expect the unexpected.
The Importance of Data Sharing
In order for cloud technology to truly transform how the container shipping industry operates, a collaborative effort from those within the industry is also required.
As Derek Kober asserts, “cloud-based, collaborative data-sharing platforms” are able to provide “the real-time visibility and connectivity required to improve efficiency and productivity”, but it is important for key players to work together in support of this end goal.
Kober reveals that executives “agree on the need for stakeholders to operate with a common set of data”, 85% of those surveyed describing this as “very important”.
The same executives also believe that a significant improvement can be achieved, in terms of operational performance, once real-time collaboration across the supply chain becomes a reality.
#SPSC18 Craig Halford (@cshalford), @xvelaconnect, believes the #Maritime industry requires the urgent attention and cooperation of competitors.— Port Technology (PTI) (@PortTechnology) October 3, 2018
How will these key players come together to establish important changes? pic.twitter.com/ifIBrpPB86
The Cloud is Key
Tecon Rio Grande and Tecon Salvador, the two Brazilian terminals collaborating through XVELA’s service, are proving how cloud technology can be used to facilitate data sharing between maritime authorities, for the benefit of both parties.
Guy Rey-Herme, President of XVELA, describes the terminals’ cooperation as “win-win”, the facilities able to enjoy “greater efficiency” and “higher resource utilization” because of the cloud-based platform which makes each terminal’s information available to the other.
This pioneering example of collaboration in the Latin American region should motivate the entire industry to embrace openness, as well as a technology that can make widespread data sharing and automation a reality for the future.