Smart ports are the future of the shipping industry

Digital processes and smart solutions are steering the maritime industry into a new age. The pace of change might be too fast for some, but those who embrace the future stand to reap significant profits

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Smart port technology will revolutionise the shipping industry

As a field of business that has remained constant throughout almost the entire history of humankind, shipping and port operations are often considered by the wider public as representing the good old days: an idyllic past when the pace of change was slow and new ideas less constant. While this may have been true a decade ago, things have since changed dramatically.

As an example, for a company servicing more than 10 million passengers per year, ensuring smooth traffic for both people and vehicles is now as natural a requirement as secure premises. Meeting this need requires simple check-in processes, short waiting times, and efficient management of waiting lines for vehicles and trucks. In the past, this entailed a mammoth feat of complex organisation, but now it can all be achieved with a modern ‘smart port’ application.

Be smart
The Port of Tallinn has, together with its partners, started testing a pilot project for a smart port application, which also addresses truck congestion. Currently, vehicles bound on ships usually have to park in the port, with simultaneous boarding inevitably resulting in traffic jams. With the implementation of a real-time waiting line system, however, we will soon be able to have trucks stop on the outskirts of the city centre, to be directed onto vessels at exactly the right time. What’s more, a smart solution not only shortens waiting times at the port, but also reduces traffic loads and thus minimises air pollution.

The Port of Tallinn has, together with its partners, started testing a pilot project for a smart port application

For the industry as a whole, smart solutions at customer endpoints are a must-have tool, but for real efficiency gains the keyword is digitalisation. All our communication channels are, of course, digital already, and the logistics sector already utilises in-house digital platforms and solutions. But for a value chain that extends across borders and includes dozens of different companies, the most common bottleneck is the interconnection of IT systems between different actors.

A tool designed specifically for the logistics sector would allow seamless connection between different databases, allowing firms to work together for maximum efficiency and impact. Security is paramount in such a system, and has been considered – all outgoing data is digitally signed and encrypted, while incoming data is authenticated and logged.

Sustainable care
Underpinning daily operations and corporate planning, the watchword for the maritime industry is sustainability. It is not only a question of external regulations, but also a matter of operating in a modern business environment that puts the concerns of the environment on an equal footing with the financial bottom line – being green is no longer an option, but a requirement of good business.

Being green means valuing sustainability and, for any business entity, sustainability is the key to future development and success. Therefore, being green is a business goal in itself, as the combination of smart and sustainable solutions fosters competitive advantages, and has a direct impact on the bottom line.

In 2017, the first LNG-powered ferry was commissioned on the Tallinn-Helsinki route. A ferry that produces 25 percent less CO2, 85 percent fewer nitrogen compounds, and practically no sulphuric compounds or soot particles on the route with heaviest traffic in the world marks the beginning of a new era in marine traffic.

In all sectors, the prerequisite of success is the fast adoption of the opportunities that technological innovation offers us. Focusing on smart technology and digital solutions, with a keen eye on sustainability, is today’s way forward in terms of serving customers and reducing needless bottlenecks. This not only has a direct impact on profits, but also benefits society as a whole.