What is Artificial Intelligence in Smart Port Operations?

Artificial Intelligence (AI), intelligence demonstrated by machines, is making waves in smart port and terminal operations. 

Artificial intelligence is a key technology for smart ports and the reason for port automation. In fact, without AI smart ports could not exist. AI has already impacted global logistics companies and will continue to impact the development of the maritime and shipping industry. 

AI converts data with powerful algorithms to replicate the thought process of humans. As port operations are redundant, there is a lot of past and real-time data produced that can be plugged into these AI algorithms and technologies. AI has already automated vessels, trucks, and even a few current port management systems. For example, Port of Los Angeles already uses autonomous cranes and container trucks to transport cargo within the terminal. Port of Rotterdam also employs AI for their digital smart port operations. 

Watch the news video below to see how AI is impacting Port of Los Angeles and Port of Rotterdam 

Ports use digital AI technologies for system automation, safety and security improvements, vessel route, vessel turnaround time, and container dwell time optimization. As well as for accurate estimated time of arrival forecasts, real-time performance forecasts, and to create a digital twin of their port (a real time digital representation of the port operations) 

ETA Forecasts

Machine learning, a subset of AI when machines are programmed to replicate and imitate human decision-making processes, helps a company to create a digital simulation of what might occur in the real world. For example, Machine Learning can plug in real-time data collected from IoT sensors and blockchain databases into AI algorithms to track vessel trade routes. By tracking the trade route of a vessel, a port could know the accurate estimated time of arrival (ETA) and use this data to optimize berthing time. Currently, most ships do not arrive at their predicted ETA, so AI will have a big impact on the improvement of global port operations. According to Danish company Sea-Intelligence in their Global Liner Performance Report for November 2020, the average reliability of a global carrier arriving on time across 34 different trade lines fell to 50.1%. Imagine if 50% of airplanes arrived days late to their destinations – the world would be a mess – and that is the reality for the shipping industry without the help of AI.  

Vessel ETA is big issue in the global shipping industry, and if AI technologies could be used to optimize exactly when a ship arrives and departs, this would cut costs, reduce environmental impact and port congestion, and help comply with standards and regulations. This would also enable authorities to use automated decisions so that cargo is unloaded at the right place and right time. 

AI Improves Efficiency

Digital smart ports using AI can handle an increase in cargo and traffic, optimize employee working hours, cut human error, and make the supply chain more productive. AI improves overall efficiency. 

For ports and shipping companies, AI and automation projects are known as retrofitting. This is when existing facilities, like ports, employ AI technologies into a traditional system to create a safer and more organized environment. 

AI enables companies, to create software-based platforms and modules that maritime actors can use for improved business practices. For example, the Sinay Hub uses AI algorithms to give the maritime industry a 360-degree view of their activities. 

Essentially, with the help of AI, ports could process their data to help them to make accurate decisions, plan for shipping arrival and departure times and optimum storage solutions, and quickly load and unload containers and cargos from ships.  

How Will AI Affect Ports and Terminals?

AI has been around a very long time. Ports and the shipping industry have provided multitudes of past data and real-time data from IoT sensors that AI algorithms use in their software platforms. 

Using AI to improve ports and terminals has a lot of potential yet a long way to go. Within the port, the terminal, and current surrounding modules there is immense potential for improved use of AI. Once quality data can be used in the supply chain, ports will be able to use algorithms to make quality decisions.  

There is also a future for AI inside automated equipment. Ports already use AI in terminals to transfer containers and cargo. This allows vehicles to operate with central guidance and transport cargo and containers more efficiently. 

The way of the future alludes that for ports and terminals there will be a mix of AI systems and human systems. For example, vessels, vehicles, and certain systems will use AI while there will still be the need for a central system controlled by humans.  

Sinay Helping Ports Overcome AI Challenges

The shipping industry is incredibly old, and so there are challenges faced to retrofit AI into daily port management systems. 

Data quality is the key enabler of being able to use AI systems. As mentioned above, ports and the shipping industry provide loads of past and present data, but the key issue is quality. AI algorithms are very powerful and must be plugged in with high quality data to work. For the Sinay Hub, we collected data over a period of 10,000 days at sea, and we have a team of PhD AI experts to help us understand and employ the data into our AI algorithms. That means the data we use is pertinent, dependable, and high quality. 

Another key issue regarding the use of AI in ports is standardization. There are currently no standards for maritime industry technology. Normally, when ports adopt innovative technology systems it is customized for their specific operations. However, at Sinay we have created multiple scalable solutions with the help of our AI experts to be used by different maritime actors.  

AI Is the Way of the Future

Ports all over the world are integrating AI into their port infrastructure. Port of New York and New Jersey developed a five-year plan to implement AIPort of Hamburg has implemented Machine Learning modules, and Port of Shanghai and the Port of Singapore have both used AI to be named by the United Nations as the world’s best-connected ports.  

AI will continue to improve ports for the better. AI makes ETA forecasting possible which will change all aspects of port operations. An accurate and reliable vessel arrival prediction creates a domino effect of benefits for the planning and allocating of port of call organization. These benefits will affect administrative tasks and paperwork, berth allocation, human workers (like dockers), materials (like cranes), port infrastructure and maintenance, and resource planning. 

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