The terminal of today: should we stop thinking so much about the technology of the future and focus on the technology of now?
There’s been considerable debate about the terminal of the future. However, such speculation leaves us at risk of missing out on the huge gains which can be achieved with what’s already available to us.
Our priorities should be focused on the ‘low lying fruit’ in the form of proven technologies and solutions that should rightly take their place in the terminal of today. Technologies and solutions that are still not as widely utilised as they should be.
To examine the maritime solutions out there that aren’t being used to their fullest we gathered together experts from the world of ports and terminals. Our webinar panel included: Andreas Ritschel from Liebherr, Adam Sharp from NIRAS Group, Hamdi Nadharh from Red Sea Terminal Gateway, plus EMEA Maritime Mark Nailer and US Maritime Manager Rory McBride from Midstream.
Our panel of experts share their thoughts on some of the simple solutions readily available that are being under-utilised and how effective they can be.
Here’s an overview of what they discussed.
Has the maritime industry been looking too far ahead instead of looking at the technology of now?
Adam kicked off the discussion by suggesting that it’s tempting to look to the ‘glamorous’ future that the media predicts. A future with totally automated container ports and crew-less ships. Getting there isn’t going to be easy and won’t be achieved with one leap. We should be looking at the smaller steps we can take now that will help us get there.
Mark made the point that it very much depends on what can be looked at today. For example, when it comes to energy consumption and sustainability, hydrogen as a fuel seems an obvious way forward. This is beginning to happen in other markets. But there’s no clear signposting on how to get there yet for the maritime world. As the industry is renowned for not being an ‘early adopter’, however, a cultural shift is needed. Without it, delaying taking steps like this will hold us back from getting to the port of the future.
There’s also the issue of competing interests within ports to be considered. Each area wants a slice of the budget to achieve its individual far-reaching 10-year goals. They’re not looking at a combined granular approach to getting there though; so they’re ignoring the things that can be done now that will have an impact on the bottom line.
Andreas suggested that optimising everything you have now and making it the best it can be is key. Examining where you’re burning money and where you can be more efficient will help to give you a competitive edge today. This in turn will put you in a better place to take advantage of new technologies in the future.
From a US point of view, Rory highlighted that he’s not seen a port that’s addressed everything they could and there’s no real consistency in what ports are looking at. Energy use in the US has been one focal point, but only because of the rebates available there.
Smart Ports – what are they and how are they performing?
A smart port means different things to different people and can cover so much more than full automation. There’s a whole raft of things that can make a port smart. Again, getting there won’t happen in one big leap. Areas like digitisation, for example, need to be designed to be part of a port’s information infrastructure and implemented to run through the whole supply chain.
As a terminal operator, Hamdi posed the question ‘What is best – a smart port or a usual one?’. He believes it totally depends on the port’s clients. If a smart port doesn’t give a client what it wants, it simply won’t use that port. He surmised that one of the key routes to becoming a smart port is through blockchain integration with stakeholders. It may not be the easiest thing to achieve, but the benefits it can bring, Hamdi believes, are huge. Red Sea now uses it to share data with Customs, which has cut paper flow by 16%. The length of time a container now stays at Red Sea has been cut from 14 to potentially just three days.
For Andreas, a smart port isn’t just about having smart technologies and data. It’s all about making smart decisions from that data. Using Leibheer’s LIDAT software to prove his point, Andreas showed how the information it gives on a crane’s performance can be used to make smart choices, such as giving special offers to clients. The data it gives can be shared with all stakeholders too so they can use it in their planning – an enormous benefit for everyone.
LED floodlighting is another good example of what can contribute to making a port smart Mark suggested. It can give energy savings of up to 70% and much better lighting at the same time, it reduces maintenance costs and lasts much longer too. Together, these will allow operators to achieve the ‘magic’ ROI within three years. It allows you to use your lighting smartly – through things like DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) and provides usage data so clients can understand how to optimise their systems.
Adam pointed out how a lot of what was being discussed revolved around asset management. As a further example, he showed how existing NIRAS laser scanning equipment can be used to monitor and create a ‘digital twin’ of a port’s underwater structure. The current alternative involves divers, weather permitting, taking close-up videos that then need to be reviewed to see if there are any issues. NIRAS laser scanning is quicker and far more precise. The data is incredibly simple to interpret and can be easily shared with insurance providers, for example, to show there are no structural issues to help keep premiums as low as possible.
From a ‘users’ perspective, Hamdi agreed that the data these solutions can give is fantastic. It has to be used though and this means companies have to trust it. At Red Sea, that’s exactly where it’s got to with its OCR system. Red Sea’s whole OCR operation is now controlled by just three people who only need to get involved with day-to-day operations when there’s an exception that can’t be handled by the system itself.
A key shared benefit of all these existing technologies everyone agreed is, that when used fully, they can create massive saving and revenue opportunities for ports. This positive impact on the bottom line can and will be used to fund the ‘glamorous’ future we’re all looking forward to.
Watch the webinar to discover more of what was discussed by the panel.