Walking the walk on automation

11 Apr 2017
Big Data: The report warns ports, terminals and vessels alike should be gathering data now to stay ahead of the game Photo: Lourdes Munoz Santamaria

Big Data: The report warns ports, terminals and vessels alike should be gathering data now to stay ahead of the game Photo: Lourdes Munoz Santamaria

A new report by Trelleborg says that broadly speaking, ports and terminals are talking the talk on automation and Big Data, but not embracing either.

'Preparing for the Port of the Future', informed by renowned Futurist Gerd Leonhard and backed up by an industry wide survey conducted by Trelleborg, suggests that there’s a real lack of understanding of the significance and opportunities of these new technologies.

Louis van Schel, Secretary General at PIANC, said: “New technologies aimed at reducing port waiting times are being developed and installed, both landside and shipside, in areas such as ship loading and off-loading, yard handling, customs clearance, cargo off-take capacity and hinterland connections.”

But there is a lack of uptake.

Consequently, Gerd Leonhard said that it’s ‘completely obvious’ that logistics in shipping – and the areas around it – are ripe for disruption.

And not from the big shipping companies. Disruption will come from start-ups and big technology companies and there are already examples of this in the industry. For example, Maersk is teaming up with Chinese company Alibaba to allow customers to reserve spaces on its vessels.

The report warns because data will become the new business currency, ports, terminals and vessels alike should be gathering data now, to analyse and act upon to be best placed for the future.

Worryingly, of those surveyed, only 24% automatically store vessel data and proactively analyse it to inform future decision making and only 32% electronically capture and standardize data whilst the vessel is at berth.

And data currently being collected by ports and terminals is really only the bare minimum in understanding the status of vessel and berth. So to glean real insight into real time conditions and support decision making, more in depth insights are required.

For example, the ability to use GPS data to align manifolds and vacuum mooring systems on bulk liquid vessels and terminals (oil, LNG, food, oils, chemicals) would save valuable time and also be beneficial when the industry starts to look at autonomous or remote guided vessels.

The report concludes that perhaps the scale of the anticipated change is daunting for ports and terminals, leading to inertia.

But the fact is that it that automation and Big Data don’t have to be scary. Much of this data will be gathered from processes and equipment that are already in place. It’s more about gaining insight into how efficiently the port ecosystem is running and then identifying areas for improvement.

Trelleborg’s SmartPort concept uses the latest in data powered marine technology to connect assets, collect data and provide insights that support ports and terminals in their drive towards the Port of the Future vision.

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