Defining digitalization for ports in Tallinn

May 17 2018

Defining digitalization for ports in Tallinn

Over 60 stakeholders from all over the maritime industry gathered at the premises of the Estonian Maritime Academy (EMA) in Tallinn on 17th May, 2018, to discuss the impact of digitalization on the port sector. The event, organized by the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) and hosted by the EMA and Port of Tallinn produced many interesting thoughts as to how the sector should handle the digitalization process.

The event opened with speeches by representatives of the BPO, Port of Tallinn and the Tallinn University of Technology. The speakers underscored the need for deep understanding and clear definition of digitalization. Valdo Kalm, the CEO at Port of Tallinn, defined a port 4.0 as a smart port, one that is digitalized, automated, using big data and even learning from all these aspects.

After the stage has been set, Lars Jensen, CEO of SeaIntelligence Consulting and the conference moderator, delivered an overview of the maritime sector’s state of preparedness for the digital era. Resilience has been mentioned as a key point of digital development, allowing for a steady and smart implementation of solutions targeting actual business problems. The tech is there, but there is a need to change the underlying business processes in order to truly embrace the coming changes.

The keynote speech has been followed up by Valdo Kalm, taking the stage once again, to elaborate on one of his company’s innovative projects – the so called “X-Road” for Logistics, a platform enabling a much smoother exchange of information. It makes it possible to exchange data independently and directly. He also mentioned a plethora of various digital projects the Port of Tallinn is involved in, among them the Blockchain Pilot Project, which contributed greatly to easing up the bureaucratic strain and smoothened up the monitoring of loading, customs processing and pre-shipment of export containers in real time.

After a short coffee break the attention of the participants switched to the topic of how ports and maritime consortiums approach the digital era. Data exchange returned once again, this time on a global scale and between ports, in a presentation by Richard Morton, Secretary General at IPCSA. IPCSA’s initiative promises to enhance the transparency and certainty of the supply chain. Ports will need to share and exchange data for electronic reporting for regulatory requirements and efficient cargo movement within the whole supply chain. Mindsets need to change, and for that we need to get people onboard who want to change. Thankfully, the wish to change seems to be there.

Ports are companies and they are out there to make a profit. Digitalization can help them in this endeavor, as shown in a presentation by Jan Bovermann, Head of Corporate Development and Digital at Hamburger Hafen und Logistik. According to him, key drivers for digitalization are technology, changing customer power and demand, value chain reconfiguration and the development of new business models. Digitalization needs to be used to increase customer experience and customer centricity.

But before the full potential can be realized, a port must define what it actually takes to act in an intelligent manner in the digital era – a question answered by Dr Phanthian Zuesongdham, representative of the Hamburg Port Authority. Autonomous vessels and autonomous mooring solutions, underwater robotics for maintenance and education of personnel specialized for work in a digital environment have been among the aspects that HPA experiments with currently. According to Ms Zuesongdham digitalization has to be a mix of technologies, processes and people, whom the former are meant to serve in the end.

Communication and data exchange returned at the end of the session, their importance made clear once again on the example of the Sea Traffic Management project, presented by Jouni Lindberg, speaking on behalf of the Swedish Maritime Academy, supported by his colleague, Janne Lahtinen of the SAMK (Satakunta University of Applied Sciences). They presented the EfficientFlow project, aimed at developing and improving the flow of goods and passengers in the Gävle-Rauma and Stockholm-Turku corridors.

Revitalized after a delicious lunch, the delegates were ready to brave the next session, opened by Jan Gardeitchik, Senior Lead for Digitalization at Port of Rotterdam. Ports need to take ownership for the development of IT solutions, that are characterized by real business value. This will have the positive effect of helping to connect effectively to digital trends that are impacting global logistics and port sectors. The right solutions can only be found with direct involvement of the ports in the development process, as in-depth knowledge of port operations is a must.

And there it was again – communication. Roberto Bernacchi, representing ABB, dove into the intricacies of connecting ports and ships, both digitally and electrically. New consumers entering the market have new demands that in turn require new solutions. Grid conditions become increasingly dynamic. The need for faster decision making and real-time action requires visibility of assets across the entire business. A fluid connection between both ports and vessels is paramount. And intelligent, connected ships need electrification. As such creating momentum requires collaboration and partnerships.

As it happens to be with many things in business, there are always pitfalls to be avoided. While digitalization certainly carries a lot of advantages and opportunities, there are dangers linked to the process. Cyber-security is becoming increasingly important and can’t be neglected. Andrew Huxley, Regional Development Director at TT Club, helped the participants understand the maritime supply chain cyber threat, exploring various perils that need to be taken into account and how to deal with them. Repercussions of such incidents can be severe, with business loss, remedial costs and reputational damage to just name a few.

The conference concluded with a discussion panel, recapping the various aspects of digitalization presented in the course of the event. The panel, featuring representatives from the Port of Rotterdam, Port of Hanko, Port of Lübeck and IPCSA and moderated by Bogdan Ołdakowski, Secretary General of the BPO, focused on topics such as the impact of digitalization on semi-sized and smaller ports and whether a universal approach to the process of digitalization can be developed.

An overview of recommendations based upon the discussion will be published in the  BPO newsletter during the upcoming week.

The topic of digitalization remains among the key interests of the BPO. It is a process that affects every industry and the maritime sector will not be an exception. As such it is set to be discussed in more detail during numerous upcoming events organized by the BPO throughout the year.