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Singapore, Rotterdam hub ports target digital solutions

09 June 2017 IHS Markit Maritime & Trade Expert

This story originally published on

Two of the world's giant maritime hubs, Asia's transshipment centre of Singapore and Europe's largest port of Rotterdam, are forging ahead in the technology solutions arena in search of competitive differentiators, and for both ports the digital transformation of the shipping industry is playing a key role.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority has brought together shipping industry players, technology start ups and venture capitalists to identify and develop new solutions, while Rotterdam is digitising its multimodal logistics network to improve planning, visibility and efficiency for carriers, cargo owners and service providers shipping through the port.

Andrew Tan, MPA chief executive, said its Smart Port Challenge 2017 (SPC 2017) project will bring together new and existing start-ups to research and develop innovative applications for IT solutions in the maritime sector. He explained it was part of the MPA's wider industry transformation effort to develop an innovative maritime start-up ecosystem to take advantage of the growing applications of automation, information and communication technology and data analytics in the maritime industry.

Earlier this year, Singapore's Ministry of Transport and PSA International signed agreements with Scania and Toyota for development of an autonomous truck platooning system to transport containers between container terminals in the city-state. If successful, the system will boost the competitiveness of the port by reducing reliance on manual labour and its associated costs and complexities.

"We are also collaborating with ports such as the Port of Rotterdam, which has embarked on similar port hackathons to develop innovative solutions for their port. Through such partnerships, we hope to encourage more solutions that are scalable and applicable across the entire port value chain," he said.

Partners in SPC 2017 include Batam Fast, CMA CGM, Hong Lam Marine, Jurong Port, Kanlian, NYK Line, Pacific International Lines, Port of Rotterdam, PSA Marine, PSA unboXed, Symphony Creative Solutions and Synergy Marine Group.

Jean Yves Duval, CMA CGM senior vice president for Asia, said the project was an opportunity to unlock value through innovation and digitalisation. "Through the Smart Port Challenge organised by MPA, the maritime and container industry and the start-ups community can collaborate to brainstorm and address challenges faced by the maritime and container industry," he added.

The SPC 2017 project includes almost 190 registered participants from the technology, start-up and the venture capital community that will identify and discuss challenges with a view to translating ideas into commercial solutions. The MPA and Singapore-based container terminal operator PSA will provide seed funding support of up to USD36,000 for each selected start-up to develop full prototypes with the possibility of implementation for business operations. Start-ups can also look for seed funding support from other venture capitalists, while shortlisted non start-ups will be eligible for MPA's Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) funding for test-bedding or product development.

The advent of technologies such as the internet-of-things, wider data analytics and machine learning have created smarter ships, while carriers such as Maersk Line are looking into the development of blockchain solutions to digitise, manage, and track shipping transactions that could potentially save the industry up to billions of dollars.

In a recent study, Technavio quantified potential savings from data analytics, e-freight, web portals, and cloud-based systems. Enhanced operational efficiency, on-time delivery, and improved satisfaction could yield up to 12% potential savings for forwarders. Similarly, the World Economic Forum projects that logistics savings of up to USD789 billion could be achieved by 2025.

At Rotterdam, Europe's busiest container port handling 12.4 million teu in 2016, CargoSmart is involved in helping the port to digitise its business and connect its ecosystem of shippers, transportation providers, and depots to improve the efficiencies of planning and shipping through the port.

Rotterdam's new online route planning tool, Navigate, has integrated CargoSmart's deep-sea vessel schedule data with its barge, rail, and truck schedules for shippers to find and compare routes. Incorporating the ocean schedules with the intermodal schedules allows the port to provide a complete picture of its logistics coverage for shippers and avoids the time-consuming task of obtaining and continuously updating schedule data from ocean carriers.



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