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As gateways for international trade and commerce activity, ports not only provide critical infrastructure for the transportation of goods but also support a significant number of related industries and services. Manufacturing, oil and gas, utilities and energy, logistics, insurance, agents and brokers, vessel maintenance and support are only some of the businesses that intersect in the port ecosystem.

Take the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, for example: it’s Europe’s largest seaport, and with direct and indirect added value of EUR 63 billion, represents 8.2% of the Dutch gross domestic product. Or the Port of Los Angeles, which is responsible for roughly a third of US national waterborne trade.

Given the key role that port ecosystems play in the global economy, it’s crucial to keep them running efficiently while addressing issues such as congestion, security and environmental sustainability.

New ways to keep global trade flowing

The use of AI, analytics, IoT and blockchain, supported by emerging infrastructure technologies such as , holds great potential for innovation in port ecosystems.

These technologies can make ports more efficient through the use of smart infrastructure and reduce costs by optimizing operations and coordination between organizations in the port ecosystem. For example:

  • Advanced analytics and AI can help ports predict demand, optimize shipping routes and improve the scheduling of cargo-handling operations.
  • IoT devices can provide real-time information on the status of cargo, equipment and vehicles, allowing for greater visibility and coordination.
  • Blockchain technology can enable secure, transparent and tamper-proof data-sharing to reduce the risk of fraud and increase efficiency.

Going green while going digital

Another area of innovation is the development of sustainable port infrastructure and operations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts – and digital solutions also play a role here.

Ports can adopt renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and electrify vehicles and other equipment, with asset management and usage-related billing enabled through blockchain – all within a data-rich environment that makes it possible to report accurately on their net-zero goals.

This, in turn, leads to better port governance and management. When ports collaborate with their stakeholders on innovation and sustainability projects, they can become more responsive to the needs of all parties in their ecosystem, including local communities, organizations and environmental groups.

Solutions for cyber resilience and compliance

No port operator can afford to have their operations impeded or even shut down by a cyberattack, yet this is such a significant risk that it prompted the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) to launch its Cybersecurity Guidelines, late in 2021, to raise awareness of the problem and help port authorities assess their readiness to prevent and recover from a cyberattack.

The IAPH noted that stakeholders around the world reported measurable increases in cyberthreat activities since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the maritime industry overall saw a fourfold increase in cyberattacks between February and May of 2020 alone.

Compliance is also a priority, in terms of not only trade agreements and legislation but also regulations relating to the environment and water quality.

Technology solutions can elevate both cyber- and physical security around port activities, and help operators make data-driven decisions to achieve sustainability targets.

Get help to get it right

The global economy will come to a standstill without ports. But achieving the agility, scalability and automation they need with may require great effort and come at a high cost. Well-trained IT professionals are hard to find, even for mission-critical organizations like ports, and internal teams’ workloads are often already at capacity.

To remain competitive and achieve their sustainability goals, port operators need access to the kind of support and digital innovation that stems from working with a managed service provider (MSP) like NTT. We help our clients modernize and maintain their IT infrastructure, and we’re already working to achieve net-zero emissions across our operations by 2030 and across our value chain by 2040.

In addition to helping address risks and potential complications, working with the expert help of an MSP opens the door to innovation – whether it’s migrating to cloud computing or simply the optimal application of AI in this industrial logistics environment.

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