Top port and terminal tech trends to watch in 2021 – Part 1

Futuristic Abstract designed New Year 2021 Background ( 3d render )

Based on some of our most read news stories and topics discussed during our events and webinars here at PTI we are giving you a rundown of what we think may be some of the top technologies to watch out for in 2021.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need for paperless documentation, increased automation and the optimization of processes.

Here are just three technologies that we think you should keep an eye on.


What is five 5G? In the middle of this year, it was part of a wide-reaching conspiracy connected to the COVID-19 outbreak but truthfully it is the latest iteration of wireless technology.

During PTI’s Container Terminal Automation Conference Douglas Mafra, Wireless Transformation Manager, APM Terminals, predicted that 5G would “revolutionise” the industry and trigger an acceleration in smart port development.

5G will prove crucial to the deployment of automation and smart technologies at container terminals.

Some are already beginning their own 5G development programmes including the Port of Antwerp which is working with the city government and Antwerp fire department to develop and test a private 5G network.

Meanwhile, Belfast Harbour has struck a deal with BT to build what it calls a state-of-the-art 5G ecosystem.

We also heard from NOKIA about its path towards wireless connectivity in port terminals in an exclusive PTI e-book. The use of industrial-grade private wireless networks will be able to provide the secure communications for digital transformation to take place.

Download the Wireless Connectivity in Port Terminals E-Book here.

Electronic Bills of Lading

The ability to go paperless has been key through 2020 and electronic Bills of Lading (B/L) are key for many.

In June, an urgent call to action was made by several shipping and port industry partners to accelerate the pace of digitalisation the cope with the new realities that will be faced in a post-COVID-19 new normal.

Operational problems have occurred where ports are reliant on personnel integration and paper-based transactions.

One leap forward for the concept of an electronic B/L has been the emergence of standards which have been published by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA).  Achieving a standardised electronic BL is foundational for the digital transformation that many are embarking on.

Meanwhile, COSCO and the Bank of China have embarked on a blockchain-based Bill of Lading pilot.


Speaking at a virtual event earlier this year one industry member said that cybersecurity may not be the sexiest of subjects.

This may be but the maritime industry needs to get to grips with it sooner rather than later.

Yet again this year we saw a major shipping line, CMA CGM, hit by a major cyber-attack which interrupted all internal access to CMA CGM’s network and computer applications to isolate the malware and take protective measures.

The group is of course not the first shipping line to deal with such an attack. In 2017 A.P. Moller-Maersk suffered an attack caused by Petya malware which resulted in IT system downing.

From the port’s perspective the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) has urged the port industry to concentrate on cybersecurity.

Jens Meier, CEO of the HPA, said awareness of the threats of cyberattacks was paramount. Meier has highlighted the need for cyber security awareness in several forums this year.

He has also highlighted that remote working which has been one of the biggest results of the pandemic has a key contributing factor to a business’ vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

Some initiatives are now taking place for instance the Israel-based shipping line ZIM has has agreed a deal with Konfidas to establish ZKCyberStar, a new subsidiary offering a full range of cybersecurity services for the maritime industry.

Ultimately, for ports, the technological environment that is a feature of modern ports entails a heightened risk from cyber threats, making greater protection essential.

Read part two of our top port and terminal tech trends here.

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