Industry drivers, smart ports, tourism and more – BPC 2019 concludes in Stockholm

Sep 05 2019

Industry drivers, smart ports, tourism and more – BPC 2019 concludes in Stockholm

Over 150 participants gathered at the Hilton Slussen Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden on 5-6th September, 2019, for this year’s edition of the Baltic Ports Conference. Organized by the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) and hosted by the Ports of Stockholm, the event focused on diverse issues impacting the port and maritime industry today and in the years to come.

Bogdan Ołdakowski (BPO), opened the conference, introducing a series of welcoming speeches by Mattias Landgren (Swedish Ministry for Infrastructure), Fredrik Lindstål (Ports of Stockholm) and Dr Kimmo Naski (BPO). In his speech, Dr Naski mentioned that BPO’s strategy for the upcoming decade, continuing the Organization’s support of the development of Baltic ports, will be discussed and laid out in the Fall of 2019.

State of the game

The opening session presented a broader view of the current economic situation not just in the Baltic Sea region, but also globally. Dan Smith (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - SIPRI) discussed the impact geopolitics, environmental issues and technology have on international stability and security. The presentation was followed by an analysis of yet another important aspect – demographics – with a special focus on the maritime industry, delivered by Indra Vonck (Deloitte). As world population gets older and more numerous, trade flows will become more regional and knowledge and service driven. Productivity will fall but luckily tech is there to pick up the slack. The maritime sector needs to act and seize the great number of opportunities it has to digitize and innovate in order to keep up.

Attention of the audience then switched to issues more specific to the Baltic Sea region during a session dedicated to cruise and tourism. That said, Ville Haapasaari (Port of Helsinki), talking about challenges faced by cruise ports in the region, mentioned concerns that are viable for other ports as well, such as increasing next gen vessel sizes or expanding city infrastructure. Markus Joswig (PIA) took a closer look at the impact environmental regulations can have on ports and cruise lines, particularly those related to the discharge of sewage from passenger ships. Issues associated with Port Reception Facilities include insufficient capacity or straight up unavailability of facilities, low discharge speed or lack of standardization.

Get smart

The concept of smart ports has been a topic present in a lot of discussions for quite some time now. During the conference, representatives from a number of ports presented their take on innovative and smart approach. The event could not happen in Stockholm without an in-depth look at the Norvik Port project, which is set to be completed next year. Presenting the project, Thomas Andersson (Ports of Stockholm), underscored the strong emphasis on sustainability, reflected in the availability of on-shore power supply, environmental discounts and waste handling, as well as black and grey water reception.

Next up was Piet Opstaele (Port of Antwerp), talking about the ambitious challenge of building a port of the future. He touched upon the roles of ports – as a landlord, operator and regulator, but even more importantly as community builder, enabling innovation in and around the port. It is also worth mentioning, that while digitalization plays a key role in the process of whole industries becoming “smart”, it is a means to an end, not the end.

Rounding up the trio was Jan Gardeitchik (Port of Rotterdam), offering an overview of the benefits of the Software as Service solution in relation to Port Community Systems (PCS). Information sharing, optimization of processes and in turn cost savings can all be achieved via PCS. According to Jan, the urgency for to invest in PCS is increasing. Ports will need to evolve, with smooth connectivity between the port and the hinterland becoming insufficient. A smart port needs to become a global hub, connected to other ports and logistic chains.

According to Kris Kosmala (Click & Connect), future ports need to be attractive to carriers. This is not an easy task. It will all come down to time reduction – both to communicate and perform vessel-related actions. Future ports need to go hand-in-hand with multi-modal transport. They also need to be resilient to climate changes. They will be driven by the automation of cities. In the end, a smart port city will be a highly sophisticated organism, making use of numerous technological advancements, such as digital twins, city traffic management systems, AI image recognition and language processing and more – a mix of tech solutions communicating with each other.

All the technology

Throughout the two days of the event, the delegates had the chance to hear about a variety of technological innovations. Concrete examples for digital solutions and their beneficial impact on cost efficiency, security, data sharing and maintenance were presented by VRT Finland and Grieg Connect. It is hard to talk about smarting up without mentioning automation. Cavotec showcased their innovative mooring system, which allows the process to be far safer, faster, efficient and less investment heavy as traditional options. Konecranes showed how positive of an impact can automation have on the environment, as displayed by their concept for eco-efficient lift trucks – ECOLIFTING. SeaData was also among the environmentally conscious and tech savvy companies, offering a closer look at their custom-built air quality measurement and analysis systems. Since on-shore power supply has been mentioned throughout the event, Actemium was there as well, giving some practical examples of implementation of their technology.

The conference also featured a number of presentations showcasing projects from the Port of the Future Network. Present at the event were representatives of all four initiatives - DocksTheFuture, COREALIS, Port Forward and PIXEL.

Talking it out and destination Tallinn 2020

A conference does not consist of just endless waves of powerpoint slides. The BPC 2019 accentuated various issues with discussion panels filled with experts from a broad plethora of key industry companies and organizations. Among the panelists were representatives of the European Commission, ESPO, CLIA and Birka Cruises, as well as numerous ports – Rostock, Gdynia, Tallinn, Riga, Hamburg and Rotterdam. Topics ranged from predictions regarding the future of the maritime industry, cooperation possibilities between ship operators and ports when promoting tourism, as well as the challenges that ports need to tackle when faced with the need to “smart up”. The latter was also discussed during a live, on-stage interview with Veronica Thunholm (STOKAB), exploring the synergies between smart ports and smart cities.

The event concluded with a study tour to the Port of Norvik, the ambitious project of the Ports of Stockholm. It was a chance to witness firsthand some of the ideas presented and examined throughout the conference.

The Baltic Ports Conference will return in September 2020. The next edition will take the participants to Tallinn, Estonia.