The Digital Transformation of Ports: A Driving Force for Competitiveness
The Covid-19 health crisis has served as a catalyst for a trend that was already well under way and will help speed up the digital transformation to spark a real digital revolution geared towards the digitization of port processes.
Digitalization currently represents a crucial challenge for ports across the world and will pave the way for a genuine breakthrough in the port and maritime industry, which has seen few innovations since the container was introduced back in the 1950s.
Indeed, according to the latest report published by the World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), digitalization is essential if ports are to recover successfully from the Covid-19 crisis and effectively prepare for future crises. According to the report “Accelerating Digitalization: Critical Actions to Strengthen the Resilience of the Maritime Supply Chain” (World Bank Group, IAPH and WPSP, December 2020), we are now definitively entering a new era in which digitalization will be a port’s key factor for success.
Thus, the year 2020 constitutes a historic turning point, since it allowed the maritime and port digitalization process to gather speed.
In addition to digitalization of information flows between the various stakeholders in the port ecosystem, a flood of new innovations is being implemented in several ports, which are seeking to take advantage of the latest technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and 5G, to devise new, “disruptive” ways of carrying out procedures.
Several initiatives of this kind have been launched, including the creation of a blockchain platform (Maersk), implementation of a smart bollard (Port of Rotterdam) and testing of autonomous vessels.
At national level, and in the same spirit, in December 2020, the National Ports Agency announced the first Smart Port Challenge in Morocco and Africa in the form of an entirely online hackathon designed to encourage companies, start-ups and universities in Morocco and abroad to offer innovative solutions to address several port issues in areas such as electronic payment, energy efficiency, port infrastructure management, port security and environmental protection.
This event, which finished at the end of January 2021, benefited from the participation of more than 500 researchers, experts, start-ups and professionals from more than 10 countries and resulted in the submission of more than 70 projects.
Through this new innovation-based community approach, the National Ports Agency intends to boost the performance and competitiveness of national ports by coordinating the actions of the various stakeholders with a view to providing innovative solutions to major port challenges.