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The growing use of maritime data to determine investment decisions and efficient use of capital.
“Ports are increasingly using data to create a more rigorous, computerized performance that identifies incremental improvements and determines investment decisions.”
Alec Don, industry expert, former chairman of the British Ports Association and former chief executive of Milford Haven Port Authority.
Balancing the efficient servicing of existing port business while
building up infrastructure that can accommodate the rapidly changing
nature of the shipping industry remains a major challenge for
today’s ports. This evolution is impacting docking and mooring
investment decisions and shaping the ports of the future.
Industry experts we spoke to agreed that while larger vessels have generally lowered the cost of international shipping in the immediate term, ports are now faced with how to future-proof their infrastructure to handle even bigger vessels and offer enhanced product handling capability. Ideally, ports would invest in infrastructure that doubles the rate of discharge and halves the amount of time a ship stays in port, but it takes a long time to increase the capacity of a wharf and significant capital expenditure. From under-digging the foundations of existing berths to constructing berth extensions and new deeper water berths with higher dredging costs, through to installing cranes with greater extension, these are capital-intensive solutions with high up-front costs.
Hi-tech, low capex
Ports are therefore increasingly turning to technology to identify potential areas where efficiencies can be created without the need for significant capital outlay. Technology-enabled docking and mooring systems that capture data streams across the port environment are being implemented to establish a more optimized operational solution that can both generate value and accurately determine investment decisions. Sometimes it’s about thinking differently about expenditure. One well-known UK port authority reduced its capex by adopting piloting and navigation software that removed the need to upgrade physical channel markers located in its harbor approach. At the same time the port authority found that safety and accessibility were improved as pilots no longer relied on visible guidance but were able to access on-screen charts that reduced human error and functioned effectively in a range of MetOcean conditions.
Geographic location emerged as a factor that influences the investment decisions of commercial port operators and consultants. It was felt the close location of European ports encourages a competitive market where ports need to invest to attract customers or they will relocate elsewhere. More remote locations may appear to be under less pressure to invest because of fewer alternatives for customers but, according to our experts, ports that have upgraded their infrastructure are creating a snowball effect with their technological investments delivering success stories that are gaining visibility in the industry and other players feeling they don’t want to be left behind.
“Technology-based docking and mooring solutions generate more than financial value, there are safety and reputational benefits too.”
Alec Don, industry expert and former UK port authority chief executive.
Due to the competitive nature of the marine and shipping industry, efficiency gains in port operations can make a significant difference to port financial viability and expansion decisions. From dedicated container terminals for specific shipping lines at individual ports or building a generic commodity terminal to serve many customers, there are multiple routes for port optimization. Using data-enabled docking and mooring equipment gives port operators and owners a comprehensive understanding of performance and operational optimization opportunities to enable safer, more efficient and sustainable cargo transfer.