Smart, agile and innovative – how small and medium sized ports can be at the forefront of digital transformation?



Ville Mäkeläinen, CBDO, and Pia Asikainen, Organisational Development Specialist, GISGRO


A growing pressure for digitalisation is pushing the maritime industry to invest in digital tools for logistics, asset management, and other functions.

There are projects for automatizing cargo transportation or digitising customs documentation, for example. Large ports are leading the transformation, but there are many ways how small and medium sides ports can, and should, be the vanguards of digitalisation.

What is a small and medium sized port (SMP)? The definitions vary from the port’s annual freight handling volumes to market share or international connectivity.

Mostly used definitions utilise the amount of annual freight in ports. In Europe only 17 ports exceed the limit of 50 million tons of freight annually, which is a commonly used number in definition of an SMP2. Internationally, only three of the European ports are included in the list of 15 biggest ports in the world.

In other words, a majority of ports match the definition of a small and medium sized port. SMPs have an important role in achieving ambitious goals of fighting the climate change in the maritime transport industry.

While large port organisations are combinations of different businesses and activities, SMPs often concentrate on the core function of providing infrastructure for the maritime transport, outsourcing the other related functions to their partners.

The difference means SMPs may need to rely on the power of co-operation and take their partners along when planning different development projects.

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