With the globalisation of consumption and the e-commerce boom, especially in the pandemic years, the volume of buying and selling of products, food, inputs and commodities between countries has increased exponentially. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the total traded in 2021 reached US$28 trillion, 23% higher than 2020 – an all-time record. In the third quarter of last year alone, the volume reached US$ 5.6 billion.
Maritime transport is responsible for 90% of the movement of these items between countries. The sector is experiencing a period of strong growth and, like other industries, is experiencing accelerated digitalisation of its processes, seeking to be more efficient, safe, profitable and environmentally responsible.
To meet the demand, shipowners, cargo agents, ports and other companies in the sector have been increasing their investments in technology, automation and connectivity. Among the most used resources are the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (machine learning), blockchain, big data and intelligent interfaces that integrate and centralize data and information related to port operations. Once brought together in a single ecosystem, these solutions promote a gain in efficiency, quality and safety for the sector, both in onshore terminals and in ships transiting the oceans.
Maritime cargo transport emits approximately 1 billion tons of CO2 per year – about 2.5% of the total produced worldwide – which places the decarbonisation of the sector at the centre of the debate. Among the initiatives under development are the modernization of the current fleet, with the recovery and adaptation of older ships to zero carbon targets; advanced GPS navigation system that reduces the distance between ships; creation of routes guided by climate and ocean conditions; new, more economical propellers; and the production of alternative, less polluting fuels.
All this effort aims to meet the ambitious goal of GHG reduction in the sector stipulated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS): a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared to the levels identified in 2008.
This environmental challenge is added to all the others in this long journey of the maritime transport and logistics sector in search of greater efficiency, safety and reliability. The reinvention of the activity necessarily involves the adoption of technology as an authentic compass, capable of guiding the sector in this sea of data towards a greener and more prosperous future.
Trends in the digitalisation of the sector
In ports, IoT speeds up the release of cargo and collaborates with monitoring, with sensors connected in various equipment and logistical areas of the ports generating data that will be collected and processed. On ships, it allows remote control to compartments, bays, hatch doors, bulkhead systems and hydraulic machines and electrical network.
Artificial intelligence is a resource used to analyse the big data generated by the digital ecosystem and transform it into strategic information for port managers and companies. These predictions are intended to allow the optimization of processes and workflows, avoiding congestion of ships at sea for the unloading of products or trucks in the port area, waiting for the release of cargoes.
The possibility of machine learning and automation are resources used in certain work in terminals where there is a greater risk of accident. These are intelligent machines, guided by software with automatic learning, which perform the maintenance of heavy equipment, such as cranes or robots that clean the hulls of ships. On board the vessels, this learning serves as support, for example, for captains during docking manoeuvres.
In the case of intelligent port management, this is a software-driven platform that integrates data, processes and digitalises documents, allowing greater agility in the movement of cargo. These e-documents are responsible for eliminating bureaucracy and rework, facilitating the actions of maritime agents and port authorities.
Blockchain technology is gaining more relevance in the sector, with the immutable registration of transactions and the tracking of contracts related to goods and cargo transported, reducing administrative costs and fraud risks for the parties involved in the business, thus creating a more transparent and reliable global system.
In relation to digital route management, generally ships’ routes are pre-established before setting sail, without considering any unforeseen weather conditions along the route. With more advanced navigation systems, it is possible to adjust the course in real time, according to the ocean and weather conditions on the route, resulting in greater safety, time savings and reduced fuel consumption.
Vice president Solutioning, Commercial Sales & Marketing Latam of green4T
In Portos e Navios