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Op-Ed: Using data for less cluttered and more sustainable ports

Written by

Heather Ervin

Credit: Shutterstock/Adwo

By David Yeo, Founder and CEO of Innovez One

The phrase “think globally, act locally” couldn’t ring truer when it comes to tackling some of the most critical challenges facing ports around the world, from record congestion to the need to reduce carbon emissions. greenhouse gas. Solving these crises will require ports to improve their efficiency and sustainability, and it all starts with data.

Port congestion has reached unprecedented proportions, prompting carriers to abandon hundreds of stops on vital trade routes that connect manufacturing hubs in Asia to northern Europe and America. The resulting delays and shortages continue to affect customers, businesses and economies around the world.

At the heart of the global port congestion puzzle is a well-known global domino effect: disruptions, including COVID restrictions and major storms, have resulted in a series of backlogs along supply chains. As a result, we are seeing record numbers of ships queuing outside some of the world’s busiest ports as containers continue to pile up in yards waiting to be transported.


Less well known is another domino effect that occurs on a more granular level, within the ports themselves. This concerns the series of operations that must take place when a ship arrives or leaves a port, including pilots, tugs and service boats. Ensuring that each of these services is in the right place at the right time to meet the specific needs of each vessel is a complex puzzle in itself. A number of variables need to be considered, from the availability of specialist equipment to the shuttles ferrying pilots to boarding locations. Even the slightest planning error can leave ships waiting for services for hours, further worsening congestion.

Unfortunately, the majority of small and medium-sized ports (approximately 80% of the market) have not yet adopted the digital tools that would allow them to optimize this critical and complex process – instead relying on manual processes, such as whiteboards and spreadsheets, which inevitably leads to inefficiencies.

The current congestion crisis makes the digitization of pilot, tug and service vessel operations even more vital. AI-powered algorithms enable ports to optimize scheduling and ensure assets and people are in the right place at the right time. Importantly, digital tools can reallocate resources instantly if a ship’s ETA changes. Although these digital solutions alone will not solve the problem of global congestion, they will go a long way towards making ports more efficient, resilient, sustainable and competitive.

For example, in the Indonesian port of Tanjung Priok, average waiting times for nautical services fell from 2.4 hours to approximately 30.5 minutes following the implementation of our port management solution MarineM.


Digitization will also help ports meet one of the most important challenges of our generation: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By optimizing pilot and tug operations, unnecessary trips are eliminated and fuel consumption is kept to a minimum, reducing both emissions and costs. In the ports we support with our digital solutions, we have seen a direct impact in reducing emissions from support fleets through the optimization of vessel movements.

But the impact of data-driven solutions doesn’t stop there. They can also reduce emissions from visiting vessels, as optimized operations reduce the time vessels spend idling, with their engines running.

In addition, increased digitization is key to implementing more reliable “just-in-time” vessel operations, which would reduce the need for vessels to “rush to wait” (sailing at full speed to meet a deadline). arrival for a berth which may not be free). Given the exponential relationship between speed and emissions, this could significantly reduce emissions.

The adoption of digital solutions by a single port may seem like a drop in the ocean, and it alone will not solve all the underlying causes of port congestion. However, local transformations will be the building blocks of a truly global smartport network, where critical information flows seamlessly to improve efficiency, combat congestion and reduce emissions. And for this global transformation to take shape, change must start locally, in every port.

Categories: Environment, Op-Eds, Ports & Terminals
Keywords: David Yeo, greenhouse gas emissions, Innovate One, maritime digitization, port congestion, ports, shipping emissions, sustainability, sustainable shipping

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