9 Smart Port Benefits to Increase ROI, Safety, and Smarter Choices

By James R. DeChant, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Technology is always evolving and the shipping industry is ideal for the new evolution of technology and disruption. The need to evolve and become smart/digital is happening with the demands for efficient ports.

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The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) predicts that global container handling in ports could rise up to four times the current levels by 2030 and five to six times by 2050. As an industry leader in marine cargo tank coatings, and filling the increased demand for high-performance tank linings, we believe that as an industry, we need to plan for growth responsibly. APC sees first-hand the evolution the industry is experiencing and the critical role we play in the maritime value chain.

In this article we talk about smart ports, what they are, and why they are important. We have included a number of industry developments and discussions from various sources about the potential smart technology benefits to improve efficiency, generate higher revenues, and to enhance overall decision-making with real-time analytics.

But first,

Let's discuss what a smart port is and what they mean for the environment...

What is a Smart Port? 

According to Wikipedia

"A smart port is an automated port that uses nascent technologies such as big dataInternet of Things (IoT), blockchain solutions and other smart technology based methods to improve performance and economic competitiveness."

The concept is to use "smart" technology to increase a port's efficiency.

Smart ports are where technology and humans are able to share real-time information. The effectiveness of smart ports rely on humans and technology working together for the benefit of the port and ultimately its customers. Maintaining a seamless operation is always a challenge and involves communication between many parties and a collaborative approach.

Watch the video below, as Joyce Bliek, Director of Digital Business Solutions at the Port of Rotterdam, underlines the importance of pursuing digital solutions for ports that want to become smarter.

source: Port Technology, What is a Smart Port? - Joyce Bliek, Port of Rotterdam

Smart Technologies / Applications in Smart Ports

Big Data

The shipping industry will have access to large data sets to help improve their logistics and become port smart.

Artificial Intelligence

AI usually refers to Machine Learning, where computers learn over time. Meaning the computers apply algorithms that will improve with experience. For example, AI in the shipping industry can be  utilized to improve shipping routes. AI can determine the best route with the best speed.

Internet of Things

Definition - “Sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects are linked through wired and wireless networks.” [source]

loT is looking to help the shipping industry lower operating costs, enable real-time tracking and monitor cargo and more. With loT connectivity the data insights will enable valuable data-driven decisions to make ports "smart."


Blockchain technology could prove to be a powerful tool for the shipping industry. It should work together with other technologies that include IoT, automation and big data.

"If Blockchain technology is adopted by the logistics industry, it could make shipping faster and more efficient and improve data visibility and demand management." [source]


5G will play its role in providing exceptional voice and data communications. Supply chain management will benefit from data being transferred faster in real-time. It would connect all those in the supply chain.

What does a Smart Port Mean for the Environment?

Using high-end technology as in 5G networks and IoT helps to optimize loading and unloading times in ports, which leads to fewer emissions. Cutting emissions will improve health benefits globally.

9 Smart Technology Solutions for the Shipping Industry

As technology develops, ports need to evolve with the technology. More efficient management will be created by communication systems that can share information. Ports need new technology to give them the best insights into their daily activities.

The video below represents six leading ports using the smart port model. Their model consists of intelligent data systems, transparency, sustainability, open innovation, big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, non-stop service, efficiency, and automation.

Smart Ports: Piers of the Future

"Smart Ports: Piers of the Future", via YouTube July 1, 2019

Smart Port Benefits to Increase ROI, Safety, and Smarter Choices

1. Increase Efficiency 

With the rise in volume a port controls on a daily basis, technology can help improve warehouse logistics and inventory resulting in increasing efficiency.

The Evolution of Maritime Blockchain

2. Safer Working Environment and Safer shipping 

Artificial intelligence and automation can mean a safer working environment. Accidents will become less common with automation. AI can analyze data to create a more risk-free environment. Having information in real-time can result in a safer working environment.

How AI and Automated Shipping Could Improve Maritime Safety

3. Boost Productivity: Speed up Ship Docking and Reduce Load Times

With a reduction in load times (loading and unloading), more cargo can be cleared in less time.

TT (Transport Topics) News reported,

"AI already is in use in automated loading cranes at ports in southern California, New Jersey and Virginia in the United States; Shanghai in China and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The AI makes decisions about which containers to stack or unload first based on a database and other analyses."

4. Produce Higher Revenues

Mark Hillsdon, Author at Raconteur cites,

"It is estimated that using this real-time information could save operators as much as $80,000 each time they dock a vessel." [source: How technology is creating the digital ports of the future]

5. Faster Decision-making and Better Decisions Through Technology

Smart ports help make smart choices. Monitoring and data collection will help make better overall decisions. A virtual version of the port dubbed "the digital twin" can use real-time information to improve decision-making and problem-solving and support predictive planning.

6. Improve Security

Artificial intelligence helps with security checks and other automated processes. Technology can control port access for security reasons.

7. Better management of resources

 AI has the potential to track maintenance on ships and predict when parts may break down. IoT enables ship owners to become proactive with maintenance in real-time.   

8. Integrated Communications System

5G technology enables fast and high bandwidth communication. It offers better energy efficiency and will be more reliable than older types of signals.

9. Improve Environmental Sustainability

The shipping industry is responding with strategies to go "green." As IMO 2020 is fast approaching, shippers have some strategies prepared to become compliant.

From APC's perspective, using the right cargo tank coating in a chemical tanker can have a positive impact. APC's MarineLINE® cargo coating produces an ultra-smooth surface so tanks can be cleaned faster, and use less fuel for heating, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

In Summary

Smart ports are where the shipping industry is headed. Digital change has its benefits for the port, supply chain, customer, and environment. Smart ports hold the promise of increased efficiency and productivity.

The ability to move swiftly between various cargoes is also important. Selecting the right coating extends the range of cargoes, reduces the time needed to switch them, and delivers the highest return on investment (ROI). 

As a quality, premier coatings solutions provider, we provide innovative, value-added coatings for the protection of your assets.

Image Attribution: "Port-and-Shipyard_Constanta-Romania__16338" by Public Domain Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

James R. DeChant, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

James R. DeChant, Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Jim is responsible for sales and marketing activities and personnel covering APC’s businesses that are operating worldwide. He has worked for nearly 40 years in the paints and coatings industry in various business development, product management, marketing, and sales roles.


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