Recent studies carried out by Beecham Research highlight that from an Internet of Things (IoT) point of view, the smart port is a context with different machineries, different interactions among machineries, interactions between machineries and people that can be improved as any other smart spaces using sensed data.

The IoT vision in an important enabler for “digital transformation” creating connections between physical spaces and the Internet. Data flows in those connections and the analysis of data enables a better understanding of contexts, situations, and people moving within them.

In the ports of the future, port users, equipment and infrastructures will achieve a zero distance interaction offering more sustainable transport solutions. The use of IoT platforms will enable locating, monitoring and handling different transport and cargo equipment and storage areas. The requirements for a better management of equipment and resources and the huge complexity of interactions involving large quantity of simultaneous transport movements around big logistics nodes (e.g. container terminals, ports, warehouses and dry ports) originates the need to introduce IoT platforms with multiple sensors in all logistics elements to control and monitor the several operations like energy consumption, gas emissions, or machine status. With these platforms, logistics service providers will be able to monitor and control in real time all the operations and movements of freight, equipment, vehicles and drivers on logistics nodes (Gravina et al., 2017).

From the logistics point of view, IoT is so relevant for logistics, because it constitutes a key enabler for the achievement of ubiquitous connectivity among people, machine, devices, products and other entities. Moreover, IoT and the data it generates is widely used for the optimisation of any kind of processes. There is also an increasing tendency in the logistics area for automation of processes through the use of intelligent features and machines, e.g. robotics in the warehouse, automated guided vehicles for order-picking processes, the collaboration of manufacturing robots with identification technologies used on semi-finished goods etc. are all areas where IoT has already made significant leaps and delivered valuable results.

It is possible to mention concrete examples of ports where the smart port logistics concept has been applied in order to streamline processes and solve real problems. To name, but a few examples:

Hamburg Port

Hamburg plays a key role in global shipping operations. Multiple routes pass through the north German port, connecting it to 179 countries around the world. The second largest commercial harbor in Europe handles almost 140 million metric tons of goods each year. An increase in global marine traffic is expected to more than double annual container throughput in Hamburg by 2030, pushing it up to 18 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

The port of Hamburg is one of the busiest ports of Europe and a large driver for the regional economy with one-tenth of the total area of Hamburg City. Furthermore, it employs over 260 thousand people and generates over € 750 million in yearly tax revenue for the city of Hamburg. The port has opted for an IoT platform to counter the expected rise in traffic and increasing negative externalities (e.g. traffic congestion, pollution, and road safety) caused by the seaport’s activities. The platform is based on three pillars, Smart Port infrastructure, intelligent traffic flows and intelligent trade flows. The port of Hamburg works with a variety of local, regional and national partners on the project. These partners include the city of Hamburg, which is moving to the smart city model by implementing e.g. smart lighting, bridges, parking lots, etc., the state of Hamburg as well as the Federal Ministry of Transport. Building and Urban Development also play a pivotal role through the maintenance and expansion of inland transport infrastructure. On the private side Hamburg is teaming with IT solutions providers.

Since the docks’ 72-square-kilometer site offers limited scope for expansion, the Hamburg Port authorities (HPA) needed an alternative way to meet rising demands. The solution that has been found was the introduction of smartPort Logistics. This solution allowed a streamlined management of spiralling goods flows, the improvement of  truck throughput and the prevention of congestion enhancing quality and efficiency along the entire logistics chain.

Port of Antwerp

The port of Antwerp focuses its strategy of operational improvement on NxtPort, an information sharing platform for companies such as BASF, MSC, Katoen Natie, DP World and PSA. The objective is to become a self-sustaining data-commercialization company that will gather, centralize, store, analyse and exchange data from a wide variety of logistic actors. Other parties which can join the platform in due time include customs, food quality control, other governmental agencies and IT application developers.

Port of Rotterdam

Within the port of Rotterdam two main technological feats have been accomplished, aimed at locking cargo streams to the port. First, the nationwide Portbase initiative, in existence since 2009. Portbase Port Community System is the digital connection to smart Dutch ports. It is a combination of an application layer, platform and information database. The system promises concrete savings in time and money through bilateral connections and information exchange. A second technical feature in the port of Rotterdam is the state-of the-art fully automated deep sea terminal with automated guided vehicles.

Port of San Diego

One of the greatest areas that can benefit from IoT is in energy efficiency and demand management, indicating that intelligence can be used to improve productivity and energy efficiency.

The Port of San Diego was among the first ports to launch an energy efficiency digitisation programme in 2014 through itspartnership with the Smart City San Diego Regional Collaborative, led by Cleantech San Diego.  This collaboration brings together public, private, and academic stakeholders to drive existing energy programmes forward, identify new opportunities, embrace additional collaborators, and move the San Diego region into new horizons of sustainability.

The primary goal of the regional initiative is to initiate energy efficiency pilot programs and share those successes and best practices with the goal of having them replicated across the region, the nation, and the globe.

The Port of San Diego was among the first ports in the nation to adopt a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2013. The CAP provides a long-term strategic vision for the Green Port Program, and calls for 10% reductions of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 25% by 2035 compared to 2006 numbers.

Data collected showed the port has made significant progress towards its 2020 goal, reducing approximately 56,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and achieving over 50% of the 2020 goal.

The use of smart sensors to detect and stop wasted energy in buildings supports the goals of the Port’s CAP and is anticipated to contribute to future declines in greenhouse gas emissions.This collaboration demonstrates how the capture and use of data can reduce energy and save money, which can encourage similar deployments in buildings and communities throughout the region.



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