Ports 4.0 Conference – digitalization under the microscope in the maritime sector

Jun 20 2023

Ports 4.0 Conference – digitalization under the microscope in the maritime sector

Digital twin ports, sea and land traffic management systems and smart port solutions – these topics were covered during the 3rd edition of the Ports 4.0 conference. The industry community gathered in Freeport of Riga, Latvia, on June 20th to share views, ideas, case studies and experiences related to the digitalization of ports, which seems to become an inevitable and important trend.

The meeting began with welcome speeches of Bogdan Ołdakowski (BPO Secretary General), Mārtiņš Staķis (Mayor of Riga), Viesturs Zeps (Chairman of the Board at the Freeport of Riga) and Ansis Zeltiņš (CEO at the Freeport of Riga). The conference was moderated by Artūrs Zandersons (Freeport of Riga).

Digital twin port – what is worth paying attention to?

The first session, which was focused on digital twin ports, was opened by Hege Berg Thurmann (Port of Oslo) who presented the Norwegian Digital Port Infrastructure project. Nine Norwegian ports, the Norwegian Mapping Authority and the software company Grieg Connect worked on developing a common digital infrastructure for the ports. The initiative helped to reduce length of stay in port and waiting time, increase efficiency of logistics, develop digital mooring plan and berth booking, create digital quay and service ordering. An extended project of digitization is planned to map 100 largest ports in Norway, develop integrated IT solutions to improve ship traffic and logistics and develop and pilot autonomous systems in ports.

Edgaras Trijonis (Moffatt & Nichol) talked about the Port of Esbjerg, the first wind port in the world with its digital twin developed by the US company. He underlined that identifying potential issues and efficiencies before financial investments provide an extremely powerful tool for the offshore wind port industry. By anticipating different scenarios, the port can be optimized to ensure efficient operations and maximum throughput. The goals of the port were to maximize offshore wind capacity throughput and no downgrading of other existing business lines. The efficiency of the port has been increased up to 3 times.

The first discussion panel concerned creating digital twin ports and assessing the viability of such an investment. Dr Leonard Heilig (University of Hamburg/EUROGATE) drew great attention to the analysis of the value in use and profitability of the procedure to check how well it serves in solving problems, enhancing processes and enabling data-driven decision making. In turn, Eduards Jakovics (Nortech AIC) added that regardless of the size of the port, it is worth starting with small steps and initiating more advanced processes over time. He also emphasized the importance of deciding which part of the activities will be done in house and which are preferred to be outsourced.

Traffic management systems should run like clockwork

Olli Soininen (Finntraffic Vessel Traffic Services) started the second session describing the Finnish example of implementing a sea traffic management system as the company he represented deals with the Western Finland VTS Centre and the Gulf of Finland VTS Centre. Introduction of a national Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) brought several operational and technical benefits such as integrated systems and reporting, standardized operations, stakeholder facilitation on digitalization, common approach to operational applications like JIT, VPA, cost savings and synergies with Maritime Single Window.

Another interesting case study was presented by Linda Astner (Port of Gävle). The project concerns port activity app, a digital solution communicating arrivals and departures for ships to all partners prior and during a port call. The tool improves the process of ship arrivals and thus increases the competitiveness of shipping, as well as contributes to a lower environmental impact thanks to better adapted and planned arrivals and departures of ships in the port.

Olari Tammel (Port of Tallinn) shared his experiences with the land traffic management system. Thanks to the software applications for port and operator staff in the traffic management for ro-ro, the staff required during check-in in Port of Tallinn decreased by 75% and at the same 90% of employees is satisfied with the ease & use of system. Additionally pass-through in express lanes takes 2 seconds and Customer Net Promoter Score increased from 40 to 73.

Digital transformation – today and tomorrow

The last, third session was opened by dr. Ignė Stalmokaitė (Council of the Baltic Sea States) who raised the topic of the current state of green shipping corridors and digitalization in BSR as, according to the Clydebank declaration launched at climate summit in Glasgow 2021, at least 6 green corridors are to emerge until 2025. Currently, Sweden is leading in possible implementation of these assumptions displaying the priority list of 11 possible green corridors to be created to the appointed deadline. The speaker underlined that to accelerate the implementation of green shipping corridors it is crucial to focus on, among others, innovation and sustainability, gathering reliable data key for operationalization, data-driven route selection, assessment and design, sharing information with decision makers and green corridor stakeholders.

During the speech, Kadri Haufe (Nortal) used maritime metaphors to illustrate the long-term potential success of digital transformation. Her vision assumes 5 principles: the crew (commitment of management board), charts & compass (establishing a well-considered digitalization roadmap), the anchor (prioritizing user experience), the sail (iterative approach to achieve scalability) and mooring line (choosing digitalization partners carefully). She also emphasized the importance of an active participation in the discussion of all the stakeholders, willingness of change, building trust and choosing a proper strategy to execution.

The second discussion panel concluded the substantive part of the conference. Artūrs Zandersons (Freeport of Riga) and Kaspars Liepiņš (Freeport of Ventspils) spoke from the perspective of the ports about the cooperation between rail, road and maritime traffic operators. Among the challenges they mentioned the role of cooperation between management boards, paper work and security issues, including cyber security. They also highlighted the role of data flow and sharing between units, cargo tracking and competitiveness issues.

To sum up, the entire conference featured common points related to a broader view and a multidisciplinary approach to digitalization. The speakers pointed out the involvement of the entire team at every level, extensive discussions with internal and external partners, standardization of data, trying different scenarios, always have a plan B easy to use system and environmental benefits.

The final point of our event was be the Freeport of Riga tour by boat. The participants visited the largest port in Latvia and the second largest port in the Baltic States. In 2022, 23.5 million tons of various cargo were handled in the port, which is 49% of all seabound cargo handled in Latvian ports.


The Baltic Ports Organization was the organizer of the Ports 4.0 Conference with the huge support of co-organizers: the Freeport of Riga and Rīgas Brīvostas Padome and additional support of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia.

Media partners: Jura Mope Sea, Conqueror Freight Network and Baltic Transport Journal