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7 Ways Technology Will Help Alleviate Port Congestion

Man looking up at containers in a port

It’s been nearly two years since global lockdowns were lifted, but the consequences are still being felt in international freight and logistics in general. We are experiencing constant port congestion around the world, which is putting a strain on the economy and regular daily life for many people. Solutions to the congestion problem are on their way, and some are already here. We already have the technology to help relieve the burden on international ports; however, we need to put it into action. Today we will talk about the 7 ways technology will help alleviate port congestion.

1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

Given the unpredictability of the future of ocean freight operations, whether for political or economic reasons, ports must start searching for ways to make the process of loading and unloading freight as streamlined and efficient as possible. That being said, one of the most effective means of accomplishing this is through digitization. The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, can monitor goods and deliveries using smart sensors and relaying the information remotely over the internet. Many people regard this technological advancement as the foundation of logistics history’s most significant technological shift.

However, this technology and approach to logistics are not new. A few European ports have been using so-called “smart ports” since 2011. Using IoT technology, these smart ports can maximize capacity and efficiency. By using different types of sensors, these ports can keep tabs on using their physical assets, such as trucks, cranes, roadways, and storage facilities. In addition, smart ports monitor traffic flow using GPS and geo-referencing.

2. Drone technology

Since the pandemic, port operators have been working hard to find ways to reduce human involvement in port operations. The fear of another pandemic has pushed most ports to start using the technology they already have to supplement people. Drones have typically been the first step in this direction. The good news is that drones have proven to be highly effective at handling port operations quickly and, in some cases, superior to people. In 2022 drones are already commonplace in the ports and logistics industries. Drones are used in regular port monitoring to increase safety, cut expenses, and improve process efficiency. Ports worldwide are utilizing drones to handle freight movement, monitor ships, clean the local environment, and follow port constructions. Drones’ extensive functionality allows ports to be much more efficient, which can lower congestion.

3. Virtual gating

Virtual gating tech can assist in keeping track of assets going into and out of ports. However, it can also track shipments in and out of facilities such as warehouses or manufacturing plants. The main reason why virtual gating is becoming so popular in logistics is that it is fast and wireless. Virtual gating employs wireless technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy sensors, whereas cellular-based telematics solutions use signal attenuation and geolocation. Cellular-based gates are, in many cases, less accurate than Bluetooth low-energy sensors.

When you use virtual gating, as a ship passes through a virtual gate, the systems identify its direction to determine whether it is entering or exiting the gate. This data gives port managers a reference point for how long assets take to move in and out of ports, which, in turn, allows them to be much more effective at alleviating port congestion, which is excellent since the demand for ocean freight seems to be on an upward trajectoryVirtual gating is also suitable as a security mechanism. It can prevent unlawful asset movement or the unintentional selection of erroneous assets. This removes some guesswork from port management and allows managers to identify and eliminate faults in the cycle.

4. High Bay Storage (HBS) system

Another resulting problem of port congestion is the need to store goods while they are waiting for shipment. When ports operate normally, goods get moved in and out of storage reasonably quickly, making room for the next shipment. Unfortunately, due to port congestion, the current storage capacity is often insufficient. According to Preferred Movers, warehousing space, in general, is becoming increasingly scarce as time passes. Thankfully, technology will help alleviate port congestion.

Systems such as the HBS (High Bay Storage) have been in development for some time. An HBS system is an automated container handling system that stacks containers up to 11 stories high. This can provide 300% capacity of a typical yard. However, it is also able to improve performance in areas such as handling speed, energy efficiency, safety, and operating costs.

5. Analytics and Data

There are many applications for gathering and analysing data. However, not many of them focus on port logistics exclusively. Access to relevant data and the ability to analyse it enables supply networks to respond to supply chain hazards in a proactive rather than reactive manner. Using predictive analytics, Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) built a data-enabled traffic prediction tool to anticipate vessel arrival times and evaluate probable traffic congestion. The valuable data you can gather with this tool includes:

  • Vessel locations.
  • Vessel speed.
  • Estimated Time of Arrival.
  • The height and breadth of the vessel.

Furthermore, smart ports utilize other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to improve predictive insights. They are also using cloud computing, data management, and data sharing. When combined, all these tools offer an excellent solution for ports trying to alleviate port congestion.

6. Blockchain

Most people associate the Blockchain with bitcoin alone, even though it only makes up a fraction of the technology. However, in concept, Blockchain can digitalize supply networks, reduce record-keeping procedures, encourage paperless transactions, and simplify supply chains. We are excited to see how this technology further helps alleviate port congestion. 

7. Platforms for Digital Exchange

And the last of the 7 ways technology will help alleviate port congestion is through platforms for digital exchange. These platforms automate the whole logistical supply chain by establishing a marketplace for diverse market sub-segments. For example, they allow people worldwide to transfer freight globally without much bureaucratic oversight. This means that the time ships spend in port will decrease dramatically. It may be difficult to see the impact of digital exchange platforms at this time, but it is safe to say that this technology is the way of the future.

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