Digitalisation Transforms Port Operations


Roughly 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea with over 70% percent as container cargo, carried in 226 million container boxes shipped each year on more than 50,000 merchant ships operating in the oceans. The numbers are quite staggering. So, it’s little wonder that the digitalisation of our operating ports to improve visibility, productivity and efficiencies is a major focus for the industry.

From ocean freighters and shipping terminals, through to the storage, logistics and transport operations that enable the onward movement of goods, digital transformation is underway across the port industry. The advantages of digitalisation are clear: businesses gain greater efficiency, productivity, speed, control and visibility. However, to unlock these many advantages, businesses at every stage of the supply chain must digitalise their processes and equip their teams with the right technology.

An essential element of this digital transformation is the use of reliable mobile solutions, from devices to software and vehicle mounted solutions. Rugged tablets can be useful tools for each of main players in the ports. Sea Carriers can use them for cargo inspection, cargo tracking and documentation. At terminals, rugged devices can streamline processes from unloading/loading operations, documentation, supervision of operations on the ground and oil tanker supervision and can easily be embedded in the different machinery used to move containers.. Similarly, these devices can enhance logistics services, from monitoring and supervising operations on the ground to communication and documentation; enable authentication and sign-off for inland transport teams, and provide remote support and data transfer for Technical Services. The multifacted uses of rugged devices in port operations can make them a great starting point for any port looking to maximise efficiency.


Enhancing a global operator

DP World, a leading enabler of global trade and an integral part of the supply chain,  has implemented the use of rugged notebooks and tablets to transform productivity and customer service at its busy Southampton terminal operation in the UK.

Initially, DP World Southampton wanted a mobile computing solution for its Leading Hands, who take responsibility to ensure the safe and correct loading and discharging of containers on each vessel visiting the terminal.

After reviewing a range of mobile devices, they chose rugged tablets and built their own software programme to provide the Leading Hands with live data and autonomy to make onsite decisions which, in turn, improved productivity and drove down costs.

The Leading Hand can now pick which bay on the vessel to work and confirm container positions. No other terminal uses a mobile device with software as advanced that enables an operator to interact with the loading and discharging of a vessel in real time, improving crane rates, shortening vessel stays, as well as providing more up to date information for shippers.

Since introduction, quay crane move rate has increased, meaning ships have shorter stays and can travel to their next port sooner.

The application continually receives updates via the tablet, which juggles between 4G and Wi-Fi connections to ensure connectivity is maintained. Extreme conditions can also impact on the worker’s ability to view and operate the screen on the mobile device but with these rugged tablets, the user can toggle from a normal touch-screen operation to a stylus only mode; enabling work to continue in the most difficult conditions.

In addition to the Leading Hand solution, DP World has also equipped its straddle carriers, vehicles which move and stack the shipping containers, with rugged notebooks in a bespoke designed docking unit. Lastly, the DP World maintenance teams use rugged notebooks as essential tools for running diagnostics and managing maintenance tasks on vehicles at the terminal.


Helping to power an Italian trading hub

Interporto Padova, the leading Italian freight logistics centre, also uses fully rugged tablets to improve productivity, efficiency and sustainability. The Interporto is located on key road, rail and port communication routes for the North-East of Italy and Europe, and from here, about twenty freight trains depart and arrive every day, regularly connecting the main Italian and European ports. The main mission of the Interporto is to develop intermodal traffic by encouraging the use of rail for long distances as an alternative to all-road transport. The logistics centre uses rugged mobile devices to view and manage operations in real time, and to assist workers on the ground and while handling machinery.

Rugged tablets are used day and night by field workers who carry out operations in rain, snow and sun along the rails. Operators continuously receive and send information from the devices, ensuring constant connectivity thanks to their LTE connection, despite tall metal structures such as cranes and container walls. The tablet is also used in the cockpit of the container-handling vehicles, where operation-related information is transmitted in real time to the drivers.

It’s clear that rugged mobile solutions are just one essential element of the digitalisation of port operations, but it is a tool that can be the foundation for transformation in multiple environments within the industry – from administration to logistics and maintenance and repairs.