Ships & Trade: the call for Smart Ports

Ships & Trade: the call for Smart Ports April 22, 2022Leave a comment

90% of the world’s trade is transported by ships. However, they contribute only 2% of the global energy-related emissions. So ships sound like an efficient and environmental-friendly way of moving goods around. And this is true until they start getting to ports. Here they encounter LOTS of problems that make the whole marine goods delivery process inefficient, unpredictable and environmentally sour. Today, we see logjams of ships waiting for days to berth in congested ports.

Why is this? The main reason is data, not the lack of these, but their availability at the right time and their distribution to the relevant port actors. Take tankers. Their business is dictated by freight contracts made by traders who can decide during the last nautical mile to re-route the vessel based on a late change in oil prices. So the limited anchorage space outside the original port destination and that of the next one both come under increased pressure, inefficiencies develop for the port-call actors scheduled to off-load the vessels with knock-on delays for everyone. Each port actor tends to work in his/her own data silo without sharing his scheduling, cargo or other data. And this is before bad weather, striking stevedores, logistical hang-ups, customs inspections, pilot availability, quarantines, Russian geopolitics, embargoed cargos, the captain’s breakfast, etc. are factored In.

These dumb ports can be made smarter by digitalization. Smart solutions exist to optimize their operations and reduce their environmental impact. What is now carried out manually, by spreadsheets, emails, textos and phone calls can be digitalized and made available in timely fashion to those who need it. The central actor, the one that should have access to everyone’s silo and be able to share the data with others, is the port authority. The best digitalization offerings are developed as a co-creation with port authorities resulting from public-private partnerships. The main issue is getting all the IT systems to work with each other.

One Finnish company, UNIKIE, has developed a successful working solution called POLO (Port Flow Optimization). This has been deployed in some twenty ports in the Baltic Sea region, one of the world’s busiest. The ports have become smarter thanks to the expertise of its 500 integrators and software developers. The complex and mainly manual port flow processes have been replaced with automated and digitized ones using machine-to-machine communication systems, modern integration and AI. The POLO platform provides real-time situational awareness with complete visibility into the entire port process and its anticipated schedules. It uses existing systems and data sources, both public and private, and integrates them into a port activity App based on an open ecosystem.

SAI has been working with UNIKIE to promote its system-agnostic smart port solution to countries outside the Baltics. If you want to smarten the one you are managing now, POLO could be your port of call.

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