By: Dhruv Kotak
There is a worldwide drive to digitalize ports and the global market for ‘smart port’ segment is projected to be US$ 5.3 billion by 2024 from an estimated US$ 1.7 billion in 2019, at a CAGR of 25 per cent. Industry experts have cautioned that ‘Smart ports are the only ports that will survive.’ Therefore, it is no longer a matter of choice but has become the existential requirement for the sector!
India has proactively envisioned this transformation in its Maritime India Vision 2030 document. We are on the path to transform our seaports into ‘smart ports’ and in due course of time, enhancing them to ‘intelligent ports’. Sustained efforts are being put towards introducing Industry 4.0 technologies like AI, IoT, machine learning, automation amongst others to simplify and smoothen the port operations, while enhancing the efficiency and improved safety of workers, vessels, and cargo. Implementing green initiatives, reducing emissions, promoting circular economy practices and adopting a responsible environmental behaviour will remain integral to this transformation process.
Ports and harbours are facing stiff competition in terms of gaining market share and delivering a more effective and secure flow of goods worldwide. High-performing ports are implementing smart technologies to manage operations better, facing new challenges in maintaining safe, secure, and energy-efficient facilities that mitigate environmental impacts.
The concept of a smart port has emerged in this context.
India needs sustainable ports to support its growing economy and address environmental concerns. Rapid growth of port infrastructure and operations has also had significant environmental impacts, such as pollution and habitat destruction. By adopting sustainable practices, such as reducing emissions, conserving energy and water, and managing waste, Indian ports can mitigate their environmental impact and contribute to the country’s overall sustainable development goals. Sustainable ports can also improve the social and economic well-being of surrounding communities by creating job opportunities, supporting local businesses, and enhancing the quality of life for residents.
To achieve these objectives, providing a secure environment for the safe and efficient handling of ships and cargo, ensuring the safety of life at sea, protecting the marine environment, and ensuring the security of port facilities is critical. This includes implementing measures to prevent accidents and incidents, as well as to respond effectively to emergencies such as oil spills or natural disasters.
By prioritising safety in port operations, India can enhance its reputation as a reliable and responsible trading partner and promote sustainable economic growth. The smart port ecosystem is revolutionising the way ports operate, making them more efficient, sustainable, and safe. These technologies integrate the entire port system, connecting stakeholders, hinterland connections, and port infrastructure in a seamless and smart manner.
Integrating the port ecosystem with technologies will require the deployment of cutting-edge IoT, AI, blockchain, and big data analytics solutions. These technologies enable port stakeholders to collect, share, and analyse data in real time, enabling them to make informed decisions and optimise port operations.
With real-time data on vessel movements, cargo flows, and port infrastructure, port operators can optimise their resources, reducing waiting times and increasing throughput. This, in turn, reduces costs and enhances the ports’ competitiveness. Moreover, smart port technologies can help reduce the environmental impact of port operations. By monitoring energy consumption and emissions, and through waste management, port operators can implement more sustainable practices and reduce their carbon footprint.
The author is Chairman, Ports & Shipping FICCI Committee on Transport Infrastructure and Managing Director JM Baxi Group