Smart ports, in line with smart cities

Generally speaking, when talking about cities, we think about streets, buildings, transport, companies, etc. People seldom think about ports even if it is port cities. Emma Cobos, Business Development Manager at Port of Barcelona, remarks that “port activity is an important part of what happens in a city, and as such, the digitalisation and innovation plans of both should be coordinated. The Smart City Expo World Congress in general, and smart ports in particular, are two interrelated actions with their sights set on the future, which is absolutely essential today. They are a way to create community among cities, businesses and ports all over the world. Plus, they give us a chance to share ideas that will help us be more competitive and sustainable.”

Posted on 11.14.2019
The Smart City Expo World Congress will be the scene of the Smart Ports: Piers of the future, where the latest news of some of the best ports in the world will be announced.

The Smart City Expo World Congress, the most important event in the world for urban evolution and innovation, will be held from 19 to 21 November. The event offers a unique meeting point for the entire smart city ecosystem, undergirded with the values of social inclusion and sustainability. Plus, this ninth edition will have a new space for the most advanced smart ports in the sector with the slogan ‘Piers of the Future’. The initiative is being led by Port of Barcelona, with the involvement of the ports of Antwerp, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Montreal and Rotterdam.

Sixx of the most evolved ports in the world will share an exhibition space measuring 150 m² with a very busy calendar that will spotlight a total of 40 projects on digitalisation, the environment, mobility and cybersecurity. The Fira de Barcelona will be yet another showcase to share the efforts of smart ports, a key piece within the global mechanism. So, what is a smart port?

The ports participating in the congress share one feature, namely having a smart model where technology, like big data or artificial intelligence, manages to automate processes and connect the different actors in the logistics chain on platforms that speed up transactions and bureaucratic paperwork while simultaneously making them more reliable. Plus, the data collected throughout these interactions among vehicles, people and institutions enable better decisions to be taken in the future. The key is constantly moving forward and adapting.

The symbiosis between a smart city and a smart port is clear, but why is the Smart Port: Piers of the Future event so important? Piet Opstaele, Innovation Lead & Manager Innovation at the Port of Antwerp, explains that “showing our projects at the Smart City Expo World Congress will serve as a bridge with the solutions developed for smart cities, since they can be valuable for ports, such as in mobility or water quality.”

The Port of Los Angeles will share its experience with the Port Optimizer portal, its port community system.

Likewise, the CEO of the Port of Hamburg, Jens Meier tells that “the event is an outstanding platform to promote projects related to smart ports and to exchange knowledge. The city is key factor to bear in mind, since our port is located in the heart of Hamburg, so it is part of its day-to-day life. For this reason, this congress will enable us to learn about innovative solutions because ports and cities are both facing similar challenges.”

The spokesman of the Port of Los Angeles says that they expect to learn from their colleagues all over the world and improve their competitiveness in world trade. Another of his objectives is to work alongside other ports and to digitally connect in order to gain better transparency and visibility. More than 4 million people live in Los Angeles, and this is why the role of the port within the plan of one of the most cutting-edge smart cities in the world is so important. Its goal is to improve quality of life by implementing the most advanced environmental technologies and optimal load planning via its port facilities.

Historically, ports have been associated with cities’ development. For this reason, the representative of the Port of Montreal believes that “it is important for the industry in the sector to unite and show its communities that ports play an important role in the digital transformation of their supply chains. Digitalisation offers new solutions and possibilities for managing the interface with cities and communities. In Montreal, we use several emerging technologies to provide real-time data to lorries so that they can better plan their trips and thus avoid traffic jams, while also lowering pollution levels.”

The six ports’ desire to advance and integrate into their cities leads to ideas grounded on digital and smart technologies. What new developments will be discussed in the space at the Smart City Expo World Congress?

The technological innovation area in the Port of Antwerp is working to build a network of automated drones to monitor the port. It also wants to create new business opportunities with remotely controlled or autonomous smart land shipping. Another of its star projects is their digital twin, a virtual copy of the port to help manage the port area. Plus, it is focusing on different sustainable energies, such as the first hydrogen tugboat in the world.

The Port of Hamburg will unveil several projects related to innovation, the port-city merger and new technologies. One of them is the Port City Model, whose goal is to develop a tool that simplifies decision-making in the optimisation of port processes. Another new development is BIM (Building Information Modelling), which offers the possibility of planning and maintaining the port infrastructure through the use of digital twins. Likewise, it also wants to introduce 5G technology throughout all the port’s infrastructures.

In turn, the Port of Los Angeles will share its experience with the Port Optimizer portal, its port community system. It will also talk about the Cyber Resilience Center, a monitoring point where companies and the port can exchange information on cybernetic threats so they can join forces to fight cybernetic risks, and the new environmental technologies they have recently implemented.

The Port de Barcelona will talk about its Virtual Gates, a system to find out everything that is happening at the entrances to the container terminals and allows 24-48-hour forecasts to be made, thus improving the efficiency of the entire logistics chain.

One of the latest technologies to be incorporated in the Port of Montreal is electronic navigation, an onboard digital tool which helps ship captains and pilots plan their trip until reaching this Canadian port. It includes water column monitoring in real time, predictions on the water level in the port and navigation panels. It also has the Trucking PORTal, an application so that lorry drivers can find out the traffic situation of the port in real time and thus boost traffic flows and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The improvements include predictive analyses based on AI which provide queue predictions hours in advance. And lastly is the digital twin, a programme that allows a unique 3-D experience to be created so that the public can rediscover the port facilities. It is also used to simulate emergency situations so that the port authority can study possible interventions.

One of the solutions that Port of Barcelona will explain is the Power to Ship, a project in which it will invest 60 million euros to electrify its piers. This developmental change will allow for a 51% reduction in nitrogen oxide and 25% reduction in suspended particles by 2030. In turn, it will be equipped with a smart electrical grid which will be capable of optimising power generation and consumption.

Another of the advances that will be discussed in the Smart City workshops is the Container Tracking Application (CTA), an application which enables the whereabouts of a container going through the port to be identified at all times with just the container number and the ship’s stopover. The Catalan port will also talk about its Virtual Gates, a system to find out everything that is happening at the entrances to the container terminals and allows 24-48-hour forecasts to be made, thus improving the efficiency of the entire logistics chain. Likewise, it will explain Smart Maritime Traffic Management, a solution developed by the maritime operations department to optimise port traffic and improve its security and sustainability thanks to detailed information on the ships and the actions of the different port services.

Check the calendar of Smart Ports: Piers of Future here, and if you don’t want to miss any of the newest developments in the upcoming edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress, join the “smartest” event of the year.