Smart Ports: The future of the port sector

With the aim of improving efficiency, safety, and sustainability in mind, the introduction of smart ports is making it possible to transform the port's value chain into an open and interconnected ecosystem in all its areas.


Smart port

Transformation of the shipping industry


Ports are critical to the global economy, as they move approximately 90% of the world's goods.


However, most require rapid and large-scale modernization, and operations are slowed by ship and truck congestion. The shipping industry has seen recent growth and that trend will continue for years to come. The European Union foresees high growth potential in ports, and the European Commission projects that the amount of cargo handled by EU ports will increase by 50% by 2030.

The port sector faces several challenges that they will have to overcome if they want to move towards a more connected world. Container shipping is having to grow to keep up with demand in consumer and industrial trade as a result of population growth and economic development. This growth puts greater pressure on ports to be more efficient and sustainable, as well as to offer more competitive prices to continue attracting large shipping lines.

With the changes in the logistics sector and international trade, the creation of research, development and innovation is essential to improve the infrastructure and competitiveness of the port industry. This means more manpower, more overhead, more space and acquisitions, quality infrastructure, less downtime, and most importantly, greater efficiencies. While most can materialize with higher revenue and stronger business, the pressure put on ports to meet growing expectations must be relieved, at the same time without compromising efficiency and quality standards.


This is where automation and data come into play.


With the adoption of 5G, smart ports will become more profitable. A smart port is a concept linked to the 4.0 Industrial Revolution in which the port uses emerging technologies to improve its economic competitiveness and efficiency, environmental and energy sustainability, as well as its facilities’ security and protection. In a smart port, it is possible to transform the port's value chain into an open and interconnected ecosystem in all its areas.


If we look at the technologies that will most impact smart ports, we could talk about the use of artificial intelligence and big data to implement demand forecasting tools. On the other hand, artificial vision systems acquire great relevance for the control of people, vehicles, detect possible anomalies and prevent accidents.


Another vital element in smart port operations is the deployment of Internet of Things devices and sensors that measure different parameters. These sensors offer data in real time that can alert key risks, such as potential fires, the accumulation of gases, or the existence of several vehicles operating in a very close environment.


It is important that in this type of large infrastructures, various devices can have wireless communication networks based on connectivity solutions such as 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi or LoRaWAN. All these devices must be interconnected in nearby communication, data processing and storage networks.


Work is also being done in smart port environments with projects related to the integration of technologies such as Blockchain in logistics and the greater supply chain between different actors within the port. Drones also have a role in locating and transferring assets, as well as monitoring different infrastructures. Additionally, unmanned autonomous vehicles are used for internal transport, while collaborative robots for handling loads.


With the aim of improving efficiency, safety, and sustainability in mind, the introduction of smart ports is making it possible to develop smarter port environments. Smart Port trends in 2021 are based on a long-term strategy, whose objectives are mainly to satisfy demand, be efficient, deliver secure operations and above all, care for the environment.


Smart ports seek to satisfy a multitude of new demands in terms of:

  1. Globalization and market liberalization

  2. Dynamics of International Trade and increasing supply chain complexity

  3. Competition in the market

  4. Security issues

  5. Environmental sustainability

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Key factors in the implementation of Smart Ports


Technology plays a fundamental role in ports, especially as it relates to competitiveness with respect to other ports.


Therefore, the key technologies or factors that most influence smart ports and that will consequently influence their development and implementation are:


Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT allows you to be connected to a network, and through a device that is identified at all times, obtain information and store it in the cloud. This allows the port to keep an exact real time monitoring of its operations.


Big data

Big Data allows us to collect, manage, store, and manage data from KPIs safely and efficiently.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Thanks to AI we can create software and physical machines that think like humans and automate key processes that must be carried out with utmost precision and efficiency.

Blockchain

The Blockchain aims to eliminate intermediaries and prevent them from appropriating data, while also maintaining a ledger that registers all activity related to a single operation across multiple actors.


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Smart Ports 2021 and COVID-19

With the arrival of COVID-19, many ports had to cope with the economic crisis and began to increase their digitization and automation in order to cope with the pandemic. Consequently, this digital implementation has left us with more profitable operations that will spread throughout the supply chain, forcing ports in part to bet on digital transformation strategies.


Ports that achieve high-level productivity and are committed to the environment, while sustaining low costs, will be able to meet demands efficiently and comply with established protocols.

Smart Ports are an essential element towards being more competitive, attracting more investment, obtaining greater profitability, and facilitating the management of maritime transport.

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Importance of Smart Ports

Ports are not just the connection points between land and sea, but much more. These can be considered nodal points between cities, supply chains, personnel, industrial centers, and even other associated ports.


Today, ports in the global supply chain and logistics have to play a more catalytic role in market leadership and market sustainability, as the stature of these ports must be in line with rising standards. This poses new challenges for ports that have ultimately become drivers of economic competitiveness and development for the region.


The next phase of ports’ development requires more intrinsic connectivity and communication at all levels of its stakeholders. Within the infrastructure, communication systems based on embedded technologies serve a variety of purposes. Sensors and feedback systems installed in equipment, docks, berths, and bridges are able to record and transmit real time data on the status and functionality of operations and critical infrastructures.


These structural health monitoring systems are very inexpensive in terms of return on investment in several nations where the cost of labor is significantly high. Additionally, this allows for better monitoring along with minimizing annual maintenance costs.

The performance of cargo handling equipment is also monitored, giving a broader picture of its efficiency and productivity. Therefore, the Internet of Things (IoT) has increasingly played a fundamental role as an extensive network between systems, labor, processes and equipment. The IoT allows port operators to exchange and assimilate a multitude of data throughout any given day.


Other smart port solutions involve a larger wireless network at ultra-modern 4G and 5G speeds, long-range RF data communication, advanced protocols, and more.

Data is perhaps the most catalytic aspect of these smart ports. With the growing influence of data on various companies globally, this has also become an era of data revolution for the industry.


Handling cargo and managing both external and intermodal traffic are important achievements of smart ports that require data analysis and smart technology measures.


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Smart Ports in Mexico

PITA

The PITA is an initiative by the SAT with the goal of automating and streamlining the processes of entry and exit to the country of both goods and passenger vehicles, for which review points will be modernized for cargo dispatch processes and other customs operations.


The objective of the program is to modernize 60 checkpoints that combine more than 99% of the customs operations in the country.

This helps modify information systems related to foreign trade in a more precise way, and speed up the customs clearance of goods. Specifically, the use of technology helps to:

  • Facilitate operations, integrity, and information security.

  • Offer a better service to the taxpayer and related institutions.

  • Optimize operations related to the entry and exit of goods.

  • Increase surveillance measures that identify and help eliminate illegal activity.

Modernizing and streamlining goods’ customs clearance brings many benefits. For example, participating companies can obtain important savings in their operations - time, money, and effort. In fact, with cargo vehicles, logistics within customs facilities are optimized, by using a recognition platform which allows the driver to identify the location of the vehicle on the platform.

Taking advantage of the opportunities that PITA offers should be a primary objective for any company.

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Conclusions

Despite recent events, world trade is recovering and the region's ports must be modernized and seek to deliver greater efficiency. If the status quo is maintained, countries will become less competitive and move further away from world leaders in the industry. Investment and reforms in port technology will not only generate cost and time savings, but will also increase efficiency and transparency in operations.


Nexus: Solutions that drive competitiveness

We are a consulting firm that provides legal and operational support with supply chain management, investment development, energy, technology and real estate solutions for companies that want to invest, expand and operate in Mexico.


Our innovative mindset allows us to offer our community a wide range of solutions, from energy to digital transformation, to commerce and protection. Our experience and knowledge allows us to offer our clients comprehensive services that meet all the needs of their supply chain.


That is why we offer smart solutions for the port sector such as:


Safety

We understand that the importance of safety in maritime trade is a priority. That's why inspecting every shipment is a priority for Nexus. Our smart solutions allow early detection of potential security breaches. We have highly intelligent electronic security systems, implementation of closed circuit television and thermal imaging cameras, live wireless transmission, urban monitoring, access systems, fire prevention and control systems. Additionally, our team ensures your systems comply with maintenance policies.

Logistics

With Blockchain technology and a highly trained circle of experts, we can offer services that streamline your operations. Nexus offers warehousing and distribution, cargo inspection at origin, freight forwarding, and customs clearance services.

Network Infrastructure

At Nexus we design, develop and implement telecommunications, electronic security and radio communications solutions to strengthen your business operations with personalized attention. We are experts in structured cabling, fiber optics and data center, IP telephony, design and engineering of Telecom projects and Wireless solutions, we have infrastructure for the rental of repetition sites.


Digital Transformation Consulting

At Nexus, we assist ports undertake digital transformation initiatives. We help them implement digital solutions that include Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT) to improve their processes and cyber security in order to ensure their competitiveness in the long run. Our team of experts has experience in creating and providing readiness assessments for the implementation of single windows systems for documentation. Furthermore, we help ports with their readiness assessments and implementation of paperless trade best practices.

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