How technologies are transforming port infrastructure

In addition to the challenges of digitizing fleets, dematerializing procedures and decarbonizing maritime transport (read our article here), the participants of the Sea Asia 2021 conference, of which ZEBOX was a partner, looked at another subject that is crucial for the future of international trade: the digital transformation of ports.

From the preparation of the arrival of the ship until its departure from the port, including loading/unloading and maintenance operations, there is plenty of room to maneuver in order to maximize the efficiency of port infrastructure thanks to technology, however there are also plenty of obstacles.

Enabling “just-in-time arrival”

The Holy Grail of the sector? Just-in-time arrival. “In an ideal world, ships would arrive at the terminal just in time. This would make it possible to achieve many gains for the entire chain, in terms of resources, synchronization, fuel consumption, energy savings…to name a few!” explains Antoine Gatinaud, APAC Sales Manager of Wärtsilä Voyage.

In order to do so, ports are integrating more and more sensors and tools that allow them to better anticipate, plan and optimize their operations. However, ports will not be able to achieve this on their own. They must increase the sharing of data with shipowners and develop solutions that allow exchanges, in a secure, efficient manner and in real time.


A development described by Martijn Thijsen, Ecosystem & Platform Play Lead of the Port of Rotterdam: “Historically, the port has always been a ‘hard’ infrastructure, where trade takes place. We are now moving more and more towards infrastructures that are also digital, with data exchange platforms that support the flow of goods and the supply chain.”

Building a new ecosystem

For port infrastructure managers around the world, the transformation that this implies is significant. “All of a sudden we have to collaborate with new and diverse stakeholders. We are building an ecosystem in which value is created by the ecosystem itself and no longer just by each infrastructure or each link in the supply chain independently” adds Martijn Thijsen.

Antoine Gatinaud provides an illustration of this ecosystem logic. “With a unified platform for data exchange between terminals and ships, each can let the other know the right time to arrive at the port. The technology is already advanced enough to be deployed” he explains. For example, thanks to the deployment in June 2021 of a real-time information exchange platform in the port of Tangier Med, the arrival of a container ships has been fully optimized for the first time. “By synchronizing this arrival, 15 hours of anchoring were avoided and 10,000 euros in fuel were saved by reducing the speed of the vessel.”

The Port of Singapore is also working on similar communication tools with ships, while accelerating the digitization of its infrastructure, thanks to sensors and the IoT. “We want to be able to provide full-scale last mile tracking, using the latest technology. In this area, the combination of 5G and IoT will be revolutionary” said Lew Chuen Hong, Managing Director of the Infocomm Media Development Authority in Singapore.

Tomorrow, fully autonomous vehicles and ships

Satya Murthy, Insights and Analytics Manager at PSA, the operator of the Port of Singapore, details some examples of what is already possible with sensors embedded in port equipment. “We have cranes and trucks driven by workers, which we equip with IoT sensors, which generate data at very high frequencies.This information is used to train artificial intelligence and detect potentially dangerous or ineffective behavior. This is a first step, pending the arrival of AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) and autonomous trucks, capable of unloading ships and ensuring the transport of goods in complete safety.


Antoine Gatinaud, has an even grander vision. “In ten to fifteen years, we should see fully autonomous ships arriving in the ports of Hong Kong or Singapore”. For now, there are still many technological and regulatory challenges, but he is optimistic: it all starts with “small steps”.

Smartport Challenges support port transformation

Several LogTechs supported by ZEBOX naturally took an interest in the transformation of port infrastructures as part of the French Smartport in Med challenge, often with an environmental angle.

DEKI, for example, which offers solutions for the collection, delivery and shipment of goods in a 100% responsible and carbon-free manner, has been selected as part of the Smartport Challenge 2021.


The principle of this Smartport Challenge? Associate large groups and institutions, who bring with them challenges, with innovative startups or SMEs that can enhance them. Together, they have four months to help create the port of the future. In this context, DEKI will work with Hammerson to help create, thanks to its solution, “a green port serving a blue economy” and reduce the carbon footprint linked to deliveries.

logo searoutes

DEKI is thus following in the footsteps of Searoutes, one of the winners of the 2019 edition of the Smart Port Challenge. The startup Searoutes provides shippers with an all-in-one solution to help them reduce their carbon footprint in relation to the transport of goods.

At the time, they won the challenge “How can we reduce the ecological impact of loaders?” with their Shift by Searoutes tool, developed for the Marseille / Fos seaport. The goal ? To use this auto-calculator, to show that it is possible to choose the right ports and the right terminals and that, consequently, going through the port of Marseille / Fos contributes to reducing CO2 emissions.

See you at the end of November to find out what DEKI have come up with!

Future is in ZEBOX !
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