Maritime Tech Can Solve Port Orchestration Problems

Maritime Tech Can Solve Port Orchestration Problems

October 2, 2020

Rainmaking Director of Trade Tarun Mehrotra says despite the maritime sector’s conservative outlook, mindsets are shifting, with observers predicting large-scale tech adoption within the next five years.

By Tarun Mehrotra

Technology can vastly improve maritime efficiency, streamline port orchestration and advance decarbonisation initiatives. But stakeholders will have to break down traditional silos, writes Tarun Mehrotra

Shipping is a conservative and competitive industry, resistant to change, wary of collaboration and reluctant to adopt new technological solutions. Data sharing is a particular area of concern. Many attempts have been made to break down traditional silos and facilitate the sharing of data, however no workable solution has yet been embraced by stakeholders.

Although viable tech solutions do exist, and the International Maritime Organisation has called for ports to institute a uniform standard for data exchange, ports and shipping companies remain stubbornly independent, resisting the adoption of data sharing and standardisation.

With 80% of the world’s trade carried by sea, inefficiencies in port orchestration have an enormous effect on the global economy and society at large. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the fault lines in the traditional model, leading to a drop of approximately 10% in port calls globally, affecting the resilience of operations, which goes hand-in-hand with environmental impact.

Our contemporaries at airfreight companies, airlines and airports embrace technological advances and the greater efficiency, cooperation and coordination they bring. The remarkably complex air-traffic management delivered by Eurocontrol provides one shining example.

Many of the solutions that have been adopted by airlines and airports could easily translate to shipping — we needn’t start from scratch. However, insofar as collaboration or new technology go, skepticism and hesitance remain the dominant mindset within our industry.

This approach adversely affects not only the shipping industry but also asset owners, the trade finance industry, and land-based logistics operators, which ships must effectively interface with when in port. Most land-based logistics organisations are moving with the times, insofar as tech goes, and would welcome more efficient interactions with their shipping partners.

Shipping accounts for roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that could be greatly decreased via the streamlining of port orchestration. Our belief is that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ solution to port orchestration problems. Inefficiencies in this area not only impact port operations, but have a trickle-down effect on the dependent ecosystems adjoining the maritime industry.

CEO and Co-founder of PortCast Nidhi Gupta believes there are three key elements that must be better coordinated in order to increase the efficiency of port operations: in-ship, pre-arrival and in-port.

“Firstly, improved turnaround time of the ship through automated processes for crew to depart early as well as communication with the shore operations team on relevant clearances. Secondly, pre-alerts and notifications of delays and risks in arriving at any port in the voyage (as well as the final port) at least five days ahead of arrival. Thirdly, ensure just-in-times operations at the port,” says Gupta.

According to Gupta, given the myriad parties involved in the successful execution of port operations, it is vital that information be effectively distributed to all stakeholders.

“Data standardisation and sharing is critical for efficiency in maritime. It’s about time that we, as an industry, can agree on common standards of data, common definitions and also enable sharing of data,” says Gupta.

DNV GL APAC Regional Head of Maritime Advisory Dr Shahrin Osman concurs with Gupta’s assertion that shipping operations need to become more transparent.

“The shipping industry as well as the port authorities and terminal operators must be willing to share data and show the willingness to collaborate and interface via a common data sharing standard,” says Osman.

He believes that greater shared visibility of information such as vessels’ scheduled arrival, berth availability at terminals, cargo operations and terminal productivity, and synchronisation with ports’ marine and ancillary services would be of enormous benefit to the industry as a whole.

Improving profits is always a strong motivator to change, however the industry is also coming to acknowledge the importance of reducing carbon emissions. Stakeholders including shipping lines and terminal operators recognise tech’s potential to assist in that respect, insofar as data sharing goes.

“If vessels are informed well in advance on the optimal arrival schedule (time to arrive at anchorage), with the vessels being tracked throughout the voyage prior the port arrival, then this will smooth out fluctuations in speed for the entire trip as well as minimise the time at anchorage and awaiting for berth. Speed management contributes to a significant component to reduce carbon emissions from shipping,” says Osman.

Cutting vessel dwell time and better coordinating scheduling will have a number of direct and indirect benefits — not least, in terms of minimising carbon emissions. Reducing the number of ships waiting at berth and cutting congestion at port can produce significant decarbonisation impact, with fewer trucks waiting and the slow steaming of ships that are arriving early.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought the need for wide-reaching solutions into sharp focus, highlighting the impact to overall supply chains if just one element in the fragmented ecosystem fails. Coupling these concerns with pressure from lawmakers, shareholders and customers to increase sustainability, change is now being forced.

Consequently, despite the maritime sector’s longstanding conservative outlook, mindsets are indeed shifting. Within the next five years, many observers predict large-scale adoption of technology and data sharing within the industry. We believe there is enormous potential for AI or tech-enabled solutions to help break down silos and create a smarter, safer and greener industry.

(Ed. Featured image by Photographer Sascha Hormel.)

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