Ports worldwide are affected by the pandemic, especially in developing countries. According to the article from ADB, countries with smart technology in their ports are quick to rebound from economic disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Ports are a significant economic point of access and connectivity to any country. For island nations, ports are their economic lifeline providing access to critical goods and supplies from all over the world.
The port in Manila, Philippines, and other ports in Asia using traditional port systems experienced significant disruptions during the pandemic. Delays meant losses, but more cargo means more revenue.
Mobility restrictions during the pandemic caused port congestion as cargo offloads in April 2020 drove yard utilisation to peak to 98%, 40% higher than usual.
A comparison of quarterly container throughput data of ports from four cities – Rotterdam, Shanghai, Singapore, and Manila from the 4th quarter of 2019 to the 3rd quarter of 2020, showed that Manila’s port has the worst performance of all four city ports.
Manila port has the largest throughput dip in the 2nd quarter of 2020. The figure improved a little bit in the 3rd quarter of 2020.
Pandemics or calamities can reveal system weaknesses that call for improvement. Fortunately, some countries have adopted the technology early, serving as examples to others wanting to apply the same technology.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority pioneered the automated container terminals and automation in operations management as early as 1993.
Once the port adopted automation, investments in infrastructure, information and communication technology, and digital networks quickly followed to support the new system.
Now, 48 automated ports exist worldwide, but Rotterdam is the busiest port across Europe, with a throughput of 14.5 million container units in 2020, the article says.
The article describes a Smart Port as:
“Smart ports use shared data platforms, machine learning and artificial intelligence to plan, manage and troubleshoot core port operations (such as vessel and truck traffic management, container stacking, warehousing, transshipments). Smart systems with artificial intelligence are increasingly used to help detect when thresholds in port operations are breached (e.g., cargo not loaded/unloaded within a certain number of days, cargo left in port facilities past due storage times).
They alert port operators and other stakeholders for remedial action and monitor compliance for standard operations to swiftly resume. Smart systems can be particularly useful during a crisis when manpower is stretched, reactive decision-making under pressure can make matters worse, or when some functions must be carried out remotely.”
Benefits of smart ports
According to the article, employing smart ports keep operations moving forward, promotes port efficiency by providing real-time cargo data. It saves time and cost and reduces GHG emission as it shortens vessel stays in ports.
The pandemic and its impacts on ports highlighted the need for better technologies to make future operations resilient from any disruptions. According to the article, many developing nations are starting to use automation with permit applications and payments moving to online platforms.
Korea and Singapore’s ports have taken automation a step further by using 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) for real-time data sharing across terminals, increase processing speed and eliminating bottlenecks.
According to the article, ports using smart technology like Rotterdam and Shanghai have recovered their throughput figures quickly and even surpass their pre-pandemic performance within just two quarters.
It proves that technology innovation can significantly improve operations and management and adds economic value.
Investment in technology and business processes to improve asset efficiency and resilience continues to be an important part of infrastructure management planning.