Just recently, 5G communications technology had a huge impact on the political scenery within the European Union and globally. In Germany a handful of local and global providers struggle for an almost historic contract volume that will change markets for the next decades.
Having this in mind, it might be a good strategy to think about the new upcoming opportunities of the high-end communications and control-systems that could be enabled by a ubiquitous 5G-Network when deployed in a port and on a container terminal. Not only is this necessary to meet some future IOT-standards that will come up in the container-industry but also to exactly define what will be the real challenges for the terminals and ports yet running a rather ordinary container terminal operation.
Hard to know yet. We could get closer to an answer if we try to split it into multiple aspects:
Once deployed and established, 5G communication nodes on container terminals can provide a very fast – basically real-time – dataflow which might have been yet unmatched: the controlling TOS could gain data about the today’s terminal operations much faster and more efficient than possible before. And maybe these will be provided by more digital sources in even closer embeddings. Imagine, when simulation systems could be enabled to forecast future bottlenecks in operation on a continuous, all-time-running, real-time base. This being enabled by very fast and extremely dense 5G data networks and a high-performance in-memory data storage to feed the necessary algorithms for comparison and hereby complementing the leading TOS. This could create new strategies for the TOS on very short notice either in STS-, yard or gate-operations to name just a few points of impact.
Robust supply chain with ports and terminals
These days almost everybody seems to work from home practicing social distancing and #stayathome. Supporting this approach and call everybody to do the best to control the spread of Corona, is what we all need to do these days.
Working e.g. from home makes you think about many different things such as: “How does this impact my business?” or “How does this impact the business of my clients?”. In the first days and weeks with the pace things are evolving, it might not be the right point in time to take long-term decisions. Sure, mitigating the first impact on business is the first priority for management now. But what (comes) will be afterwards? Will our business be the same and will it just recover after some month and move on? Isn’t the crisis also a good point to rethink business strategies from a new angle? Especially in logistics and port business completely driven by the global economy moving physical goods, we might need to go for a new way of thinking. On the one hand the supply chain takes a critical role in such a crisis delivering goods where they are needed most – from medical products to toilet paper. On the other hand, we experience the global just-in-time supply chain, as being more vulnerable than probably anticipated. Perhaps even in the case that Corona would not have been spread outside China to becoming a global pandemic. A more local scenario like this would still have hit many industry sectors across the rest of the world, “just” because one piece in the puzzle is not inline or in sequence anymore.
How digitalization may redefine the future role of ports
Looking at the current degree of digital data exchange and communications in maritime logistics and transport chains, it becomes clear that the use of ICT solutions is an old hat for the port industry. Still, business experts and scientists relentlessly proclaim an ongoing transformation that is said to shift the role ports will play in tomorrow’s supply chains. Buzzwords such as “smart” and “intelligent” are already an essential part of political discussions and strategic considerations of major market players. So what exactly is about to Change?
Paperless, automated, smart
To better understand the essence of current developments, it is helpful to reconsider how information technologies have shaped the port landscape in the previous decades and what has been different from today. Just recently, scientists have specified three main phases of port digitalization (see ).
Driven by the tremendous growth in container shipping, the primary motivation in the early days for using ICT has been to improve the scalability by establishing paperless information exchange procedures. Accompanied by standardization initiatives such as UN/EDIFACT, the introduction of port community systems (PCS) and commercial terminal operating systems (TOS) in the 1980s has set a first digital transformation in the port industry.
zero emissions by 2050
The Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) offers a position paper about CO2-neutral shipping – in the field of tension between technical possibilities, ecological reason as well as economic and political interests. What contribution can LNG make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping? What further measures are needed to realise the vision of “zero emissions by 2050”?
initiate measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the global climate
Maritime transport has increased steadily in the past decades on a world scale. Currently, about 90 percent of intercontinental trade is handled by sea transport. Along with this, vessels increasingly emit air pollutants with effects on health, environment and climate. With the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the IMO was mandated to initiate measures for reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions to the global climate. An extensive bundle of measures to achieve the ambitious goals has since then been discussed and developed. But have these measures been implemented early enough and ambitiously enough in anticipation of technologies and fuels to be developed in the future?
3D vizualisation of terminals as a chance?
Today’s terminal operators face challenges like constant pressure by global carriers / vessel operators and by landside operators likewise. To cope with these is even harder under the current uncertainties on global economic growth: how is the development of my terminal evolving in short- and medium-term view? And what if the world economic growth recovers? Would this cause a demand for an entirely new “greenfield”-terminal or just a larger or enhanced container terminals? What if the world economy tends to a recession? How can we gain a higher level of efficiency already now?
This brings up a huge bunch of questions particularly if it comes to more flexibility on container terminal operations necessary to pace up with the present competitors and global players? Do we need more prime movers and a higher level of automation? Do we have to bring in more STSs and maybe less but more qualified and specialised workers? What’s about an at least moderate change in the container-terminal-layout to gain shorter ways for my AGVs? How can I handle with less equipment and keep the service level right up to my customers’ demands?
Ongoing and “never ending” negotiations lead to lower rates per move and therefore further stressing annual revenues and cost targeting.