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SDP19: Top 5 Emerging Port Technologies

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Recent years have seen rapid advancements in technological innovation and this is having a huge impact in ports and terminals. In preparation for Port Technology’s (PTI) Smart Digital Ports of the Future Conference 2019 (#SDP19) we have compiled the top 5 emerging port technologies.

From the growth of cloud connectivity to the increasing use of drones to monitor terminal operations, 2019 has been a period of real technological progress in the ports and terminals industry.

The rapid advancements in technology have made it possible to work towards a smart ecosystem – of which ports will be core – where supply chain data flows seamlessly.

PTI’s Smart Digital Ports of the Future Conference will bring together the industry’s greatest minds to discuss and debate how modern smart ports are creating new business models and connecting with the wider chain.

Take for instance the Emerging Port Technologies: Port Digitalization and Innovation session which will include panelists from the Aqaba Development Corporation, DP World, autonomous vehicle specialist DG World and Royal Haskoning DHV, who will examine key success stories and, in doing so, look at what the future may hold for Smart Ports.

For more information on SDP19 and this session, you can download the agenda here.

Below are the top 5 emerging port technologies.


Autonomous drones could revolutionize the supply chain and provide much-needed disruption to an industry that has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s.

While seemingly unbelievable at one time, the global drone and logistics market is worth around US$24 million (according to 2018 figures) and this number is expected to grow to $1.6 billion by 2027.

Exclusive Paper: The Sky’s The Limit: Using Drones to Future-Proof the Seaport

Behind this growth is an ever-increasing need to transport goods more efficiently and in an environmentally friendly way.


While drones are already utilized to transport high-value or emergency cargo, they could potentially be used throughout the supply chain.

With the roads and seas highly congested, drones have the potential to increase efficiency, as well as cut emissions, costs and waste.

The EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc has recently launched a European network for drone demonstration projects, in order to share knowledge on how to keep drone operations safe, secure and green.

Drones will be discussed heavily in the session Developing Smart Port Cities. This session will feature Jerome Besancenot, CIO, Port of Le Havre; Miguel Llop Chabrera, Director of Digital Transformation, Fundacion Valencia Port; and Lance Kaneshiro, CIO, Port of Los Angeles.

5G Networks 

With the development of 5G, which is designed to improve the flow of information and enable automation and artificial intelligence (AI), ports all over the world are eager to take advantage of this technological breakthrough. 

For example, Hamburg, one of the largest European ports, has tested 5G technology as it sets itself up as a hub for next-generation industrial mobile communications. 

5G Networks
5G Networks

According to trials conducted by the port, 5G will support engineers on site to monitor and optimize construction planning. By the end of 2019, 5G could be applied to day-to-day operations at major ports and terminals and become a standard technology in smart operations.   

As well as that, Ericsson, a leading provider of digital communication services, has recently announced the launch of new software and hardware solutions to expand 5G deployment options. 

According to a statement, the solutions will extend network capacity and coverage, as well as facilitating a range of consumer and industry use cases. 

In February 2019, Ericsson revealed that it would cooperate with mobile service provider China Unicom to develop a 5G ‘smart’ harbor at the Port of Qingdao, China. 


5G could also pave the way for other technologies, with the flexible and fast network able to function in tandem alongside the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT is a means of connecting physical objects and for ports and terminals, it means that equipment can transfer data through sensor technology and make everyday operations independent, automated and efficient.

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.

Sensor Technology
Sensor Technology

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), a carrier that invested heavily in innovative technologies, has tested a container tracking management system that employs optical sensors to detect changes in condition, including whether or not the container is opened by an unauthorized party.

The Finnish Geospatial Research Institute and Aalto University have partnered with maritime solution providers Fleetrange and Tallink Grupp on a project to develop autonomous shipping.

Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), the goal of the joint venture is to develop techniques for safe navigation using a combination of different sensors, machine learning tools and AI.

SDP19 will see an exclusive panel of c-level experts discuss IoT as the foundation of the Smart Digital Ports of the Future session.

This session will feature names such as Marco Neelsen, CEO of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Kenneth Lim, Chief Technology Officer/Director of Innovation, Technology & Talent Development, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Mar Chao Lopez, Chief Commercial & Business Development Officer, Valencia Port Authority, and Carles Rua, Chief Innovation Officer, Port of Barcelona

Internet of Vehicles 

While smart solutions based on IoT solutions 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.

Internet of Vehicles
Internet of Vehicles

Nonetheless, this trend could accelerate in 2020 and facilitate more effective management of port traffic, increasing safety by lowering the chance of collisions.

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

For example, some of the 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.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) has opened up enormous opportunities to improve day-to-day port operations.

In short, AR is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where objects are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information.

One example of AR technology working in maritime is by the visual support provided to crewmembers during their watch-keeping and ship operations through real-time video imagery and voyage information.

 Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality

Japanese carrier MOL, part of the shipping alliance Ocean Network Express (ONE), recently announced it will install an augmented reality (AR) navigation system on 21 of its very large crude oil carriers (VLCC).

Insight: How will Automation Change the Maritime Workforce? 

According to a statement, the system displays information on other vessels sailing on a vessel’s planned route and surrounding sea areas and other ocean conditions, such as water depth.

Augmented reality depends upon a solid understanding of data and SDP19 will articulate this in the session, The Real Value of Smart Data.

This session will feature Dr. Francisco de los Santos, Chief Information & Innovation Officer, Algeciras Port Authority; Christian Blauert, CEO, Yilport Holding Inc., Emilie Dorgeville, Sales Manager, Ports & Coastal, Miros AS; Kenneth Lim, Chief Technology Officer/Director of Innovation, Technology & Talent Development, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).


How all of these new technologies need to be implemented is often a much more difficult question to answer than the ‘why?’ and ‘what?’ questions. SDP19 will bring together the industry’s greatest minds to debate their way to clear answers on how this will all unite.

As mentioned before, the industry is on the cusp of a true technological revolution; a revolution that SDP19 aims to facilitate.

Want to learn more? This topic will be discussed in further detail by industry-leading experts at the Smart Digital Ports of the Future 2019 conference, 4th – 6th November 2019. Register your interest in attending or book your place by clicking here.

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