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What is a Smart Port?

what is a smart port?
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A Smart Port is a port that uses automation and innovative technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain to improve its performance.

Although the industry of ports and container shipping is often regarded as conservative and “resistant to change”, there are new technologies, systems and solutions emerging that will alter this perception in the coming years, leading the entire sector to a brighter, more connected future.

The need to evolve and become “smart” is even more paramount today with the changing demands of global trade; ships are getting bigger, goods are moving faster, and geopolitical conflicts are creating new challenges for ports all around the world.

PTI examined in the latest edition of its e-Journal on Smart Ports the most important trends and developments across the space, from the growth of “digital maturity” models to smart master planning – both within and beyond the gate.

Ports aiming to become smarter must complement their physical operations with digital processes, according to the Port of Rotterdam.

What is a Smart Port? – Joyce Bliek, Port of Rotterdam

In the final instalment of a three-part interview, which has seen Rotterdam’s Director of Digital Business Solutions underline emerging trends for ports and terminals in 2019, Joyce Bliek focuses on how smarter operations can produce better results.

As technology develops, and the global supply chain becomes increasingly digital, there is a necessity for ports to become a “digital node” within that infrastructure.

In this respect, Bliek echoes the thoughts of Kalmar’s Director of Terminal Automation Jari Hämäläinen, who argues that the “exponential growth” of digital technology is placing pressure on the port sector to adapt. Those which fail to do so could be left behind.

The benefits of adopting a dual-approach that encompasses both the physical and the digital, as Bliek explains, are considerable, especially for the testing and optimization of physical infrastructure.

Building a quay wall for instance, without the support of digital twin technology and predictive analysis, could be very costly, whereas testing the structure’s functionality before it is constructed offers a much clearer insight as to what impact a major investment like this could have.

Money saved through digitalization can be used elsewhere to fund key maintenance and infrastructure projects, allowing the port to hone its focus on improving the efficiency of its operations.


The digitalization of industrial processes is turning the way we produce goods and services upside down as we look for higher efficiencies and better management of resources. This transformation is the so called ‘Industry 4.0.’, and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be considered its ‘cornerstone’ due to the clear need to capture information from all industrial assets.

The maritime sector is not an exception in this transformation and the change is starting to accelerate. This is precisely what is happening in the Port of Algeciras which is deploying the first LTE Private Network in the Spanish port system. The Port of Rotterdam is also using IoT technology to create a ‘Digital Twin’ of the port, and thanks to that make better decisions. Similarly, the Port of Seville is using a ‘FIWARE Plaƞorm’ to deploy IoT services for container tracking and to manage railway traffic, as well as monitor the main parameters of the Guadalquivir River.

Smart Digital Ports of the Future Conference

Smart Digital Ports of the Future Conference #SDP19 is the only international event on the market that brings together the largest number of global ports, terminals, and the entire supply chain to debate, share best practices, latest developments and to successfully propel the industry forward with digitalization.

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