Smart Ports: Need for greater automation and digitalization

Need for greater automation and digitalization

Increasing investments and cargo traffic point to a healthy outlook for the Indian port sector. In the Maritime India Summit 2021, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) identified a total of 400 projects worth $31 billion across the 7,500 km coastline. Additionally, as part of the Sagarmala project, more than 574 projects worth $82 billion have been planned for implementation bet­ween 2030 and 2035. Many port development projects such as the deep draft Vardha­van port, Bhavnapadu port, Ramana­pa­du port, Ma­chili­patnam port and Subarnarekha port are also in line. Moreover, many shipyards such as Cochin Shipyard Limited, and Garden Reach Ship­builders and Engineers Limited are planning massive expansions.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalisation at Indian ports, many ports still lag in terms of electronic commerce and data exchange. This needs to be implemented at every level of the EXIM value chain, along with the elimination of unnecessary intermediaries. A smart port ecosystem would lead to improved productivity and efficiency, worker safety and environmental safety.

Remote-controlled ship-to-shore (STS) cra­nes, automated rubber tyred gantry (RTG) cranes, automated guided vehicles, condition monitoring of assets and adoption of industrial internet of things, and drones for surveillance and deliveries are the immediate areas of smart port technologies to be deployed. When these are powered by a 5G-enabled private cellular network, they perform optimally and create maximum revenue.

The Marine India Vision 2030 (MIV 2030) is a roadmap developed by the MoPSW to en­sure coordinated and accelerated expansion of India’s maritime sector over the next de­cade. One of MIV 2030’s main guiding concepts is to promote innovation through the use of cutting-edge technologies. MIV 2030 identifies 10 critical areas that India must focus on in order to maintain its leadership position in the global maritime sector. Enhancing logistics efficiency through technology and innovation is one of the most significant. India must develop smart ports as it embarks on a new level of economic growth, boosts production, improves worker safety and enhances efficiency.

At a number of Indian ports, new processes such as e-delivery of orders, elimination of manual forms, direct port delivery, direct port entrance, installation of container scanners and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, as well as gate automation systems are being implemented. The development of the National Logistics Portal Marine (NLP-Marine), which will serve as a unified digital platform for all marine stakeholders, is now under way.

In terms of digitalisation, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has established a mobile app and an e-wallet for the centralised parking plaza (CPP), allowing users to access real-time CPP data. It also aids in obtaining information on waiting tractor-trailers, access to 12-hour tractor-trailer movement and other tractor-trailer-related data. JNPT has also put three X-ray scanners into service, each capable of scanning up to 21 containers per hour and the addition of drive-through and rail scanners will significantly speed up the movement and evacuation process. New technologies have been introduced at Mundra port, including digital navigation for container movement fleets, a system monitoring the location of yard cranes and auto-correction of container position, real-time liquid tank visibility, online container documentation, RFID-based fuel management system, workforce management system and e-clearances for dry and liquid cargos from customs. It is India’s only port with an online system for registrations, approvals, compliance, learning management and dashboards.

Digital adoption has accelerated at non-major ports as well, owing to the pandemic. Adani Ports and Special Economic Zones Limi­ted (APSEZL) have built an integrated port ope­rating system (IPOS) to replace the terminal operation system in 2020. Advanced functions such as ITV dual-cycle allocation, expert decking, yard optimisation, ITV optimisation solution and auto vessel planning are available through IPOS. For seamless information ex­chan­ge between shipping lines and other businesses in the logistics value chain, APSEZL has collaborated with Tradelens. It is being done in order to transition to a digital marketplace for integrated logistics, customer service portal, instant quotes and cargo visibility.

Future outlook

Wireless networks have been a more important area of investment for container ports and terminals in recent years and their presence in these environments has grown dramatically. Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital smart ports can handle increased cargo and traffic, optimise employee working hours, reduce human error and improve supply chain productivity. To promote the expansion of port infrastructure and facilitate trade and commerce, automation and AI in the operation and engineering services of port assets should be built for maximum asset utilisation and safe operation. The acceleration of digitalisation should be a primary concern. It must be implemented at all levels of the trade value chain. 5G networks could revolutionise the container terminal business and be the driving force behind greater automation and digitalisation.