Sign of the times? 6 seaport predictions


By Jon White, MD at InXpress.

The world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, recently announced an ambitious goal - by 2050 it’s vowed to send goods around the world with absolutely zero carbon emissions. Another brand Yara, is set to launch an all-electric shipping container.

A growing number of businesses are riding the climate change wave in an effort to cut down on the shipping industry’s contribution to emissions. Shipping companies and sea ports can no longer stick to the status quo - business opportunities have changed, and the logistics sector has and continues to transform dramatically.

In this article, Jon White, MD of global logistics firm InXpress, explores his top 6 predictions for the future of sea ports and shipping.

Greener Transport

According to ABB, ships will soon be electric, digital and connected. How can we work to make this merger happen? One solution which can decrease the emissions caused by vehicles in sea ports, is through truck platooning. The action of linking more than one truck in convoy, using connective technology and automated driving support systems. This lowers fuel consumption and Co2 emissions, because trucks can drive closer together, and the air-drag friction is reduced significantly. In fact, it has actually been proven that platooning can reduce CO2 emissions by up to16% from the trialling vehicles and by up to 8% from the lead vehicle - a big step towards realising environmental ambitions.

Digital Twinning

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not just a future buzzword anymore - we’re in the future. Digital twinning, the process of having a digital replica of a physical asset, is already being rolled out by Rotterdam port, in its quest to be the “smartest port in the world.”

Digital twinning is central to IoT, giving ports the ability to collect and analyse real-time data on water, weather and communication situations, to make traffic management safer and smarter. As same-day delivery continues to rise, digital twinning is one of the best ways to combat customer demands and maximise the amount of cargo loaded on board at any one time. Businesses need faster operations, and digital twinning could be the way forward.

Electric Container Dreams

We’ve had electric and hybrid cars for more than half a decade, but there hasn’t been anywhere near as many headlines about freight’s use of electrification - until now.

In the future, there will be more of a push on electric container ships - the first being prepared for launch in 2020 - the Yara Birkeland. The world's “first autonomous and zero-emission container vessel” will gradually build up to being fully autonomous in its first two years of operation, replacing a huge 40,000 truck journeys a year. It has to just be a matter of time before it’s rolled out in other sea ports.

Automated Management Platforms

Seaports are integral to an efficient supply chain when freight is involved, as it is in the majority of business operations. As such, any delay in this area could have a domino effect on delivery times, which is critical in 2019.

Businesses need to manage complex and tailored shipping requirements, and that’s where tech-enabled business management platforms will thrive. Time-saving features include the ability to bulk upload and quickly manage multiple orders, quickly compare carrier pricing to find the best service and price, integrate with many leading online stores, and offer an easy-to-use platform which can be accessed via desktop, mobile or tablet.

Automated shipping platforms will also rise, which businesses can progressively use more and more in the backroom to allow them to monitor customer shipments.

Upskilling Out of the Digital Divide

Both the maritime and logistics industries need to make sure that they have the right people with the best skills to effectively use and take advantage of new technologies. There will be new ways of working, new ways of delivering and new achievements to unlock. However many of the people currently working in sea ports are lower skilled, so not only will be a push in hiring more highly skilled employees, there should also be a focus in prioritising current employees and giving them the opportunity to enhance their skills to harness new technologies.

Security Changes

Physical security in sea ports has always been a priority, and most - if not all - of sea ports have rigorous security nailed down. Now, the question to ask sea port operatives is - how important is your data?

As digital takes over, data will be critical for constant communications, so cyber security and physical security will need to be upped and work in tandem, along with the training and awareness of employees. The human factor is still one of the biggest security risks to any organisation with IT infrastructure, and in the next few years there needs to be more of a focus on training all employees how to be cyber security advocates so that none of them overlook signs of a hack.

As global trade increases and there’s a push on less air cargo, sea ports are thriving. Online consumer demand won’t slow down, and technology will be key to unlock new initiatives. The shipping industry is continuously changing, and there may be tough technological changes on the horizon, but this is an exciting time for the seaport industry and its effect on British businesses.

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