In Depth: Complete Transformation of How Ports Operate Imminent

A complete transformation of how ports operate is on the horizon, according to Bret Greenstein, Vice President of Watson Internet of Things (IoT), Consumer Offerings, IBM.

Over the past few years, IBM has partnered up with industry majors such as Maersk Group and CMA CGM in order to digitize their ways of doing business.

Bret Greenstein; Image Courtesy: Twitter

World Maritime News spoke with Mr. Greenstein on the digital transformation of the maritime industry and IBM’s role in the process on the back of the company’s recent announcement on establishing cooperation with the Port of Rotterdam Authority aimed at making Rotterdam a “smart port of the future.”

Greenstein points out that the technology is transforming every aspect of every industry, and early adopters will be able to boost their competitive edge.

“In fact, according to estimates at the Port of Rotterdam, shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time, which can amount to about USD 80,000 in savings for ship operators and enables the port to dock more ships each day.”

The digitization of the Port of Rotterdam involves replacing traditional and manual communication methods with solutions powered by big data, IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In practice, that means that ship and port operators who previously relied on traditional radio and radars to make key decisions on port operations will now have a single dashboard with information such as weather and traffic.

IoT-enabled sensors gather multiple data streams about tides and currents, temperature, wind speed and direction, water levels, berth availability and visibility, which can then be analyzed using AI. These insights ultimately help operators make decisions that reduce wait times, determine optimal times for ships to dock, load and unload, and enable more ships into the available space, according to IBM.

One of the key goals at the Port of Rotterdam of adopting digitization is to host autonomous ships in the 42-kilometer port area that stretches from the North Sea into the City of Rotterdam.

“To help prepare for that future, the port is using IBM IoT to create a digital twin of the port – an exact digital replica of our operations that will mirror all resources at the port of Rotterdam, tracking ship movements, infrastructure, weather, geographical and water depth data with 100 pct accuracy. This part of our digitization initiative will help us test out scenarios and better understand how we can improve efficiencies across our operations, while maintaining strict safety standards,” Greenstein said.

As explained, there is a growing need for a modern and transparent supply chain across all industries that embrace new technologies, so as new technologies emerge, they are fully ready and capable to adapt them.

Containerschip APM ECT terminals Europahaven; Image Courtesy: Port of Rotterdam Authority

The shipping industry, in particular, is a critical part of the global supply chain, as more than 85 percent of globally traded goods travel on a ship at least once during their lifecycle.

“Digitizing the shipping industry enables supply chains and businesses to be more efficient, cost-effective, and transparent. As the industry transforms with digital technologies, we’ll start to see operations improve with less wait times for ships, easier communication between the multiple parties involved in the port, and streamlined traffic flows,” Greenstein said.

Image Courtesy: IBM

With regard to the sentiment among industry players when it comes to adopting digitization, IBM’s expert says that the industry is highly optimistic about digital adoption and its business benefits.

“You’ll see many ports around the world starting to explore digitization and understand how it can impact their business.

“The Port of Rotterdam, specifically, has entered into a multi-phase digital transformation to become the smartest port in the world. This means better operations now, but also the ability to accommodate autonomous ships in the future,” Greenstein noted.

Digitization and blockchain technology are fairly new trends in the industry. Hence, there are various challenges taking into account the complexity of the supply chain.

According to Greenstein, there is a common misconception that blockchain or IoT are one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to the supply chain.

“Right now, we’re still in a period of education and increasing the understanding of how these technologies apply to each individual business. (…) However, each business has its own set of supply chain needs that need to be considered. We educate our clients on how to apply — and more importantly, scale – these technologies so they are best suited to their business.”

Considering the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks, WMN was interested in IBM’s approach when it comes to ensuring security and confidentiality of data.

The financial cost of such a breach, which remain unreported or even unidentified by companies to a great extent, can reach millions of dollars.

To remind, the cyber attack that hit Danish-based A.P. Moller – Maersk on June 27, 2017 damaged the company’s business performance by up to USD 300 million in the Q3, 2017.

“Savvy players in every industry know that in today’s data-driven, highly distributed world, data privacy and security must be addressed head-on,” Greenstein stressed.

“IBM’s IoT platform has security built in by design and is built on the highest standards of security and it extends the same grade of security to applications that fully leverage available security features.

“With our advanced Threat Intelligence for IoT security capabilities, customers may now visualize critical risks in the IoT landscape and create policy-driven mitigation actions to automate operational responses for IoT devices at scale.”

Finally, speaking about what the future has in store for the maritime industry, Greenstein sees a future dominated by autonomous ships that rely on smart technology.

In today’s data-driven data privacy and security must be addressed head-on.

“Autonomous shipping will be facilitated by the introduction of digital dolphins, which are smart quay walls and sensor-equipped buoys,” he further notes.

“These digital dolphins provide insights on the condition and utilization of a berthing terminal and the surrounding water and weather conditions, allowing port operators to identify the optimal time for ships to dock, and where and when they can do so. Additionally, when you apply machine learning to this data, operators will be able to rely on 100 pct accurate, real-time data about the port’s infrastructure.”

“IBM provides cloud-based IoT and AI solutions that enable this data to be collected, analyzed, and broken down into tangible insights. Across industries, there is an infinite amount of data being collected from devices, 80 percent of which is currently unsearchable. Our capabilities at IBM are enabling industries to understand that data and use it to make quick, informed business decisions, and ultimately create more efficient business models,” he added.

Interview conducted by Jasmina Ovcina Mandra, Editor, World Maritime News

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