UK Testbed for Smart Ports Launched


A new programme, which aims to pilot smart digital initiatives, boost trade and foster economic growth, has been launched across a series of British ports.

According to a statement, industry experts, academics and regional authorities will join the Port of Berwick, Port of Blyth, Port of Sunderland, Teesport and the Port of Tyne, as they seek to develop satellite-based solutions for the Smart Port North East Testbed.

The Situational Awareness Information National Technology Service (SAINTS) brings together experts from business, universities and the public sector, to find ways of using artificial intelligence (AI) to harness data and develop digital solutions.

The North East region has been chosen as an “ideal location” for the testbed, with the local economy strongly connected to the ports and a tight-knit business community serving as the perfect catalyst for collaboration.

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

Catherine Johns, Innovation Director at Business Durham, commented: “Ports play a vital role in the regional and national economy, providing trading gateways to the rest of the world, with a massive impact on local supply chains and communities.

“The launch of SAINTS illustrates the important role the region’s fast-growing satellite and space sector can play in finding solutions to local issues and developing them to solve global problems in a sustainable way.”

Digitization initiatives, as part of SAINTS, will involve the testing of scalable, satellite-based solutions for ports, providing new business opportunities and hinterland engagement, accelerating the growth of green energy, improving customer experience, and achieving operational efficiency.

As the largest port in the region, PD Ports’ Teesport will trial solutions to boost the efficiency of its logistics and warehousing processes, moving cargo from the port area to wider logistics networks as quickly as possible.



Teesport operates nine weekly services to the ports of Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, and knowledge from the Innovation Dock at Smart Port Rotterdam will be used to develop applications across ports on the North Sea and in North East England.

In addition to this, the testbed will examine technologies such as data analytics, unmanned marine vessels, and airborne drones, allowing ports to become smarter, speeding up trade, and reducing operational costs.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “Satellites have been providing services for the maritime economy for many years, with advanced technology for navigation and communications the norm in the sector.

“But as international trade continues to grow unabated, this initiative from SAINTS is an exciting new opportunity for UK companies to make significant technological advances for ports, and show what is possible from a combination of satellite data, terrestrial measurements and AI.”

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