There is a growing need for digitalisation technology as ports and terminals look to meet growing demand and optimise the way they work. Several solutions were offered at Port Technology International’s webinar on the latest digitalisation trends in the maritime industry.
The webinar, titled ‘Digitalisation in Port Operations in Today’s Digital Age’, heard that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent pressures were driving the world’s biggest gateways towards innovative and collaborative strategies.
Panagiotis Fragkos, Yard and Gate Superintendent, DP World London Gateway, said he had seen a greater need for digital solutions in 2020.
“We have teams working in different locations now, so the need for communication is ever increasing, including with customers and cargo owners,” Fragkos said.
“I think it [the pandemic] is an opportunity, despite the fact is has a negative effect on many aspects of our lives and the economy. It is an opportunity to engage in digital solutions.”
Oscar Pernia, Director of Digitalisation and Automation at Terminal Investment Limited, said the pandemic period was teaching the industry “many lessons”.
“We really need to transform our way of working,” Pernia added.
“Digitalisation is coming, and it is pushing us to really focus on the processes, the workforce and the data and the different applications.
“When we have the right architecture from the different applications and can connect then we will be able to transform our way of working.”
A theme throughout the webinar was digitalisation encourages encourage greater collaboration within and between ports and the wider supply chain.
Nikola Radisavljevic, Team Leader, System Integration and Digital Solutions, ABB Ports, said the key benefit of digitalisation in all industries is that redefines processes and roles, and that it is critical to ensure this happens in port operations.
While other industries, such as retail, were far earlier adopters of digitalisation, ports and terminals are catching up, Radisavljevic said.
Current operations, which rely on paper and radio, are inefficient and prone to error, and consequently unsafe for port workers.
“The biggest problem is that there is no traceability, all communication made over radio is not recorded and it is difficult to learn and improve,” he claimed.
At an automated container terminal where most, if not all machinery is automated, digitalising operations can connect systems and bring greater value.
ABB Ports’ solution, Radisavljevicsaid, is QuayPro, which integrates all systems and helps the automation process by feeding cranes with “better data”.
“At the same time, it visualises the whole operation, so remote operators, remote checkers and deckman can all see the whole process – and it is updated in real time.
“Moreover, different controls are given to different users, so decision making can be done where it should be.”
This is one of the ways a port can become more collaborative and efficient.
DP World’s London Gateway is currently exploring two significant digitalisation initiatives, which Fragkos said the terminal operator hopes can reduce uncertainty and increase productivity.
These have been brought in recently to handle the ever-increasing amounts of cargo, and cited the maiden visit of the HMM Algeciras, the largest container ship in the world.
“Big vessels come with big challenges, and they also generate a large amount of moves,” Fragkos said.
“This increases pressure on operators as they have to handle a high amount of cargo efficiently to service truck and rail, keep up with a surge in demand while maintaining service levels terms of KPIs.”
One way the terminal has found to meet demand is through what it calls ‘Smart Stacking’, a collaboration between shipping liners, freight forwarders and trucking companies.
The objective is to enable information to be shared prior to a container arriving at the port. Cargo owners inform the port of the expected containers, and these are then divided into commodity groups.
These containers are then stacked into their respective commodity groups and the Automated Smart Stacking Report sends information and next instructions.