#Technology is becoming a fundamental contributor to ports’ operations, which are the basis of today’s global #SupplyChain. Digital solutions make up a great deal of this technology, which are advancing at a high speed to shift from being new innovative solutions to essential solutions throughout the coming period.

#DigitalSolutions are a set of smart services that meet the needs of stakeholders in various sectors of trade and logistics, to enhance the efficiency, productivity and transparency of maritime operations. This is where ports come in to develop their systems and position in an advanced industry by adopting these solutions.

Through this edition’s story, we highlight the role of smart solutions in developing and speeding up #Ports’ activities and facilitating operations, with all related parties. We have gathered some viewpoints from the industry’s experts and equipment manufacturers, shedding the light on these solutions’ significance and some of the difficulties associated with adopting these technologies.

Speeding Up the transition
Experts have a clear consensus that these smart solutions are of great importance to ports, with an even much greater need to adopt them in order to develop the working environment and performance of ports to further benefit from the investments that follow.

Sheikh Fahad Khaled Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah

Sheikh Fahad Khaled Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Acting Director of the Smart System Department at Kuwait Ports Authority, highlights the importance of digital solutions in accelerating business transformation towards sustainable work mechanisms and providing smart and advanced services and innovative digital solutions to meet the needs of stakeholders in the fields of trade and logistics. This matter, according to Al-Sabah, enhances the efficiency and productivity of maritime commercial transactions, raises the level of transparency, and helps to quickly access the information needed by the concerned parties, given that the concept of digital solutions is to bring data from different operations, combine them in one place, analyze them and then extract important information and possible obstacles. Similarly, specialists in Liebherr Maritime Cranes, part of Liebherr Group, refer to digital solutions as a major contributor to improved port operations; from fleet management, remote and partially automated maintenance, to an enhanced crane operator experience, digital solutions enable ports to modernize their infrastructure. The statement continues: “Among the potential outcomes are better economics, environmental benefits, and operator comfort. An example product that leverages digital benefits is the Liebherr LiSIM crane simulator. At low cost, staff can be trained in a targeted manner to operate various crane types effectively. The versatile virtual environment simulates a wide range of scenarios and environmental influences.”

Nasser al Busaidi

Nasser al Busaidi, CEO – Ports Operating Company at Abu Dhabi Ports Group, shapes digital solutions as one of the most disruptive trends to impact the global maritime and shipping industry in recent years, stating that “Digitalisation in ports not only helps to optimize port operations, safety, and performance but also effectively supports reducing carbon emissions and encouraging decarburization of the shipping industry. Demand for smart services is also coming from customers especially following the turbulence of recent year.”

Digital Change
Digital change in the logistics services industry is the development of the capabilities of any organization or entity that deals with logistics, according to Al-Sabah, pointing to examples such as clearance, tracking, handling, and tenders’ solutions in addition to other solutions that enhance the efficiency and productivity of commercial transactions for cargo owners, merchants and all related parties. In addition, digital solutions assist to enter large quantities of cargoes and expand the existing logistics areas without having to expand the existing areas.

Accordingly, investing in digitalization and smart port infrastructure not only promises a superior level of operational efficiency, but, according to Busaidi, also promises advanced infrastructure, innovative service capability, data-driven solutions, and real-time transparency that help accelerate cargo movement and global trade flows.

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Benefiting broadly from digital upgrades, Liebherr Maritime Cranes states that larger and more detailed sets of information related to material handling/logistics can be gathered and subsequently organized and used in strategic decision-making. “Based on this, resource use and economics can both be improved, and other sectors like the environment may benefit further from this due to a reduction in resource use. An example in digital infrastructure is the Liebherr LiDAT smartApp. It provides big data analytics to uncover hidden trends, anomalies and other insights. KPIs can easily be produced, and performance of different machines can be analyzed to help improve operations and optimize resources.”

Efficiency Through Digitalization
Depending on their infrastructure and capabilities, ports are trying to match the industry’s developments. Today, these facilities are increasingly equipped with a multitude of next-gen technologies, according to Busaidi, including 5G, big data, artificial intelligence, cyber security, advanced robotics, industrial IoT, wearables and virtualization, that offer far-reaching benefits for stakeholders. “Smart and digitally enabled ports are already realizing the benefits of more automated cargo tracking, identification, and congestion detection, as well as automation of physical assets.”

With the aforementioned in mind, digital solutions are a suitable way to reach efficiency, full operation and expansion of work without resorting to work onsite, comments Al-Sabah, referring to these technologies’ contribution to the flexibility and efficiency of some solutions that are still at their initial stage: “An example is the automated system, i.e. a system that assists the company’s departments, such as the Department of Maritime Operations in Kuwait Ports Authority, with the dates of ships calling and leaving the port, container management and handling. Maritime departments at ports are one click away from providing all information related to cargo. This also applies to solving obstacles and problems that may arise. That is why KPA is in the process of studying and applying sensors and monitoring devices in order to automate the transportation of goods within the port.”

Advancements in digital technologies increase data connectedness, analyses, and tie-in with operational decisions. According to Liebherr Maritime Cranes, operational bottlenecks can be identified more accurately and addressed, equipment maintenance may be optimized, and machines can even benefit from data analytics that are coupled with hardware components. An example of this is the Liebherr anti-sway system Cycoptronic. At maximum handling speed, Cycoptronic detects the load movement/vibration. Necessary counter-movements are calculated and executed so that any load vibration is minimized as quickly as possible. Advantages arising from the sway-free load are: precise control over the load movement and more safety in the harbour.

In this aspect, more machinery and infrastructure are being equipped with new software architecture and electronic components that allow for adopting digitized processes. This, says Liebherr Maritime Cranes, offers options such as collecting a myriad of data points for process improvements and more. With the latest Liebherr mobile harbour crane, a new crane control system, state of the art sensor technology and digital information transmission enable future assistance and partial automation systems.

In the context of these prevailing developments that facilitate port operations, it has become necessary to keep pace with development. Al-Sabah explains that KPA is working to develop ports’ operations into a digital business, to have digitalized port programs for the administrative work and tenders, as well as the Authority’s external correspondence, and programs for tracking ships and cargoes. 

As a result of such great outcomes, this digitalized trend is clearly making its way in most of the ports’ systems. Busaidi states that with “the support of Maqta Gateway, the digital arm of AD Ports Group, we are able to deliver advanced, smart, and innovative digital solutions catering to our trade and logistics clients. The suite of services includes, for example, the Advanced Trade and Logistics Platform, the official single window for trade, which enables better access for businesses to production inputs and supports greater participation in global value chains.”

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However, and in the light of creating an efficient digital ecosystem in ports, many challenges stand in the way. From KPA’s lookout, Al-Sabah explains the obstacles that the Authority is facing in the digital transformation process while developing ICT and IOT: “The current infrastructure is not fully prepared for all the digital solutions and technologies linking KPA to all external government departments and agencies. This adds up to the culture of adopting digital solutions being a major obstacle in changing the concept of work. But port administrations did not find it difficult to adopt integrated solutions, as ports are part of a huge process connecting several private and governmental parties, and a crucial link to better communication that contributes to more accurate operations.

Busaidi refers to another sort of obstacles here, as with increased digitalization of port services, the cyber-attack risk has grown significantly, and increased transparency needs to be aligned with improved security. “In addition, there is a pressing challenge for the industry to cultivate a technologically proficient workforce. Finally, to get the most out of technologies such as IoT, investment in core infrastructure has to come first.”

From an equipment manufacturers’ lookout, obstacles currently relate to the broad interconnectedness of components. Liebherr Maritime Cranes refers to supply chain issues as an example, in which electronic components necessary for digital connections cannot be easily provided, and explains further: “For ports to retrofit or expand their infrastructure or existing equipment with the needed tools, then these components need to be made available for digitalization to happen. But solutions can still be a combination of digital and analogue. 

Liebherr’s latest mobile harbour crane, for example, combines many sensors and software improvements that allow it to work together with a variety of digital platforms and assistance systems. The new crane therefore benefits from more interfacing opportunities with other devices. However, it still offers many analogue or mechanical components that function independent of how advanced and digital a port’s infrastructure really is.

Robban Assafina Magazine, Issue 83, Jan./ Feb. 2023, Edition Story, pg. 89


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Issue 83 of Robban Assafina

(Jan./ Feb. 2023)


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