Gaining Ground

Transformative role of digitalisation in dredging

Port digitalisation has become a popular buzzword in the maritime industry, and there is a growing awareness of how sm­art technologies may help a port operate more efficiently and sustainably. By incorporating digitalisation and improving the physical infrastructure, as well as assisting carriers in reducing pollutants during vessel calls, emissions can be reduced and efficiencies gained in all operational aspects of a port. Digitalisation is not a goal in itself, but rather a technique to increase working efficiency.

Although data required for digitalisation has existed for many years, the significant distinction is the accessibility of technology such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). Ports may use data to ma­ke judgements such as whether regions sh­ou­ld be dredged. By addressing common supply chain pain points via a port community system, digitalisation can make the supply chain more sustainable.

However, there are challenges in port digitalisation such as lack of data visibility and re­luctance to exchange data. By examining past data with ML and AI, it is possible to forecast the next job for various assets, such as container handling equipment and mooring technology. This could be a first step towards auto­no­mous cargo vessel sailing and help ports improve asset management.

Tech advancements

In 2019, Royal IHC and Semiotic Labs struck an agreement to collaborate on the development of smart solutions for the dredging industry. Both companies intended to leverage their expertise in shipping and dredging with smart internet of things (IoT) sensors and AI to enhance the availability and de­pe­ndability of production resources.

SAM4 is a condition monitoring solution developed by Semiotic Labs. It consists of sensors, AI and a dashboard th­at displays information about the condition, performance and energy consumption of electric motors and rotating assets such as pumps, compressors and conveyor belts.

In contrast to conventional systems that detect vibrations on the asset in the field, SAM4 detects electrical signals from the motor control cabinet. This is critical for shipping as many assets are stowed in difficult-to-reach lo­cations on board the ship. The motor control ca­binet is conveniently accessible, allowing for remote monitoring of asset condition.

Dredging equipment such as trailer suction hopper dredgers, cutter suction dredgers, grab dredgers, backhoe dredgers and water in­jection dredgers are some of the most comm­o­n­ly used.  The Dredging Corporation of India, the largest public sector institution in India,  ow­ns a fleet of 17 dredgers.

To ensure proper execution of dredging pro­jects, it is necessary to prioritise both susta­inable solutions and technological innovation. So far, Royal IHC has provided over 100 dre­dgers to Indian customers in both the public and private sectors.

Other than this, Adani Ports and Special Eco­nomic Zone Limited constructs and mainta­ins its own ports with a fleet of 18 vessels. The fleet comprises IHC suction cutter Dredgers – 4 x IHC Beaver 40 series, 8 x IHC Beaver 65 series, 1 x IHC Beaver 7525 series, 1 x IHC Beaver 9029 CSD, and 4 IHC booster units.

Significance and outlook

Digitalisation is critical for success and transparency, and having a standardised methodology across all ports would considerably streamline the process. Each port is different and hen­ce certain variations in the system are unavoidable; however, having a system that is standardised, both in terms of port operations and customs laws, would ensure ease of doing business.

Consistent and up-to-date systems and rules across all ports would be beneficial. Additionally, this would allow customs and allied authorities to quickly auction cargo from long-standing containers and release them to shipping lines for export. Indeed, customs should auction the cargo during the first or second auctions as long as they recoup costs, rather than waiting for four or more auctions, which delays the process by several months, if not years.

Alternatively, cargo should be destuffed and kept in one or more warehouses or container freight stations, and containers should be quickly delivered to shipping lines for export. While shipping lines are relocating empty containers into the country at great expense to accommodate export demand, several thousand containers remain unloaded for months,  without the cargo being auctioned. Additionally, it is envisaged to conduct dredging to deepen draught and to equip the latest generation of quay cranes to enable larger vessels to call at Indian ports. Vessel- and container-related charges are significantly higher at Indian ports than in neighbouring ports. There are difficulties concerning dual charges that must be addressed. Ports should deploy the latest generation of cranes. Indian vessel-related charges are over 400 per cent higher, making it extre­mely difficult to import new ones or services.

In the future, technology is projected to play a critical role in increasing the port efficiency. As a result, the sector will present several pros­pects for technology and equipment providers. To sei­ze this opportunity, Indian po­rts must em­bark on new initiatives aimed at en­hancing ease of do­ing business in a timely and effective manner.

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