Given the importance of freight, shipping and logistics to global supply chains and world economies, it’s hardly surprising that five prominent port cities are playing host to consecutive ITS World Congress: Singapore, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Suzhou and Dubai.

Commerce between nations and cargo handling at ports have always been major economic contributors, directly through turnover and gross value added to GDP and through more indirect benefits like job creation and infrastructure investments. ITS and smart mobility are now playing a central role in developing next-generation logistics, helping ports to be more efficient, sustainable and profitable.

‘Goods Journey from Ports to Customers: Smart and Sustainable Ports of the Future’ was the focus at an ERTICO-ITS Europe webinar in the run-up to October’s ITS World Congress in Hamburg. “Maritime trade is the bloodstream of the global economy, transporting around 11 billion tonnes of goods every year,” says Zeljko Jeftic, Deputy Director of Innovation & Deployment, ERTICO-ITS Europe.

‘The intelligent port of the future’

Hamburg’s smartPORT initiative promotes sustainable economic growth and optimal efficiency while minimising environmental impacts. “Located in the heart of the city, there are obvious challenges in balancing economics with the social impacts created by port activities,” says Dr Phanthian Zuesongdham, Head of Division Port Process Solution and Lead Coordinator smartPORT, Hamburg Port Authority. “We need to organise our infrastructure and traffic capacity so cargo flows are quick and efficient. This is where ITS technologies and collaborating with partners come into play.”

Given the proximity of so many ports to urban and residential areas, the intersection between ports and local/regional road networks is of particular interest to Richard B. Easley, President of E-Squared Engineering. “We should remember that freight and traffic are inseparable: this may seem obvious but it’s not always appreciated.” He says we need to think about integrated solutions that bring highway, roadway and port operations together. “Separate solutions can mean new problems. We need to be smarter, and make sure well-meaning solutions don’t have unintended consequences. Linked to that, we need to deal with an ‘It’s not my job’ attitude among different stakeholders when it comes to freight issues.”

Hamburg’s Green4transPORT project provides a strong example of managing traffic flows: “It’s the first V2X implementation in a real-world port setting,” says Dr Zuesongdham. “Working with partners, we equipped traffic lights and 60 trucks with real-time communications.” When a convoy laden with cargo wants to exit the port, traffic lights give it a priority, reducing delays, inefficiencies and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would result from braking, idling and accelerating. “Visitors to the World Congress can see this for themselves – it’s part of our ‘Logistics Experience’ tour.” In addition, MOZART is the first project in a port to use quantum computing for next-generation traffic management and control, finding the optimal configuration for 35 traffic lights that regulate the entry and exit of 20,000 trucks moving through Hamburg’s port facilities each day.

Towards more sustainable ports

Indeed, ports and cargo handlers are increasingly developing and trialling future mobility solutions. However, “The commercial demand for sustainable transportation is rising faster than the efficiency gains provided,” says Joerg Luetzner, Continental’s Head of Innovation Management Commercial Vehicles & Services. “The industry needs to step up its efforts to provide those efficiency increases and further reduce CO2 emissions.” Continental’s focus includes reducing fuel consumption and increasing efficiency through, for example, innovative tyres and tyre pressure monitoring, and 360° Fleet Solutions.

A number of Continental-related activities will be featured at the World Congress. For ports, this includes radar-based localisation for the EU-funded AWARD project looking at confined area manoeuvring. “We’re also involved in the ENSEMBLE project for platooning,” Luetzner says. “And in terms of customer delivery, we are working with partners in Singapore to trial last-mile delivery robots in a real-life city environment.”

Maritime decarbonisation

In Singapore, the major shipping and bunkering hub has embarked on a forward-looking decarbonisation programme. “There is no ‘silver bullet solution and the preferred fuel depends on a lot of factors,” says Yi Han Ng, Director of Innovation, Technology & Talent Development Division in the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. “Singapore’s maritime decarbonisation efforts is focused on two key targets. Beyond ensuring emissions from domestic maritime and port activities meet internal targets in the 2030s and 2050, Singapore supports the International Maritime Organization’s initial strategy on the reduction in GHG emissions from ships.” To support the global efforts, Singapore established an international advisory panel for maritime decarbonisation which recommended four strategies: harmonising standards; implementing new solutions; financing projects; and collaborating with partners.

Yi Han Ng says, “Our Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint 2050 will be ready by the end of 2021. and we have set up an SGD 120 million fund to support a Maritime Decarbonisation Centre in Singapore.” Singapore can leverage its status as a major bunkering port to support future marine fuel research and trials leveraging on the local research expertise and under a regulatory sandbox environment to conduct joint industry projects so as to develop industry standards and facilitate knowledge sharing: “The Port of Singapore can be a Living Lab for maritime decarbonisation,” he adds. “We hope others will join us on our journey towards a low-carbon shipping sector.”

A wider social and economic role

Ports of course play an important role outside their gates. One of the world’s busiest inland ports, Suzhou in China is a good example of the contribution of ports to their hinterlands and nations. “Our port economy is very important to the local economy,” says Zhiwen Wu, Head of Investment Management, Jiangsu Suzhou Port Group. “We contribute to economic development in various ways. For example, through port city integration and coordinated development. Every million tonnes of cargo throughput can create more than 100 million yuan of GDP plus employment opportunities for 2,000 people” – and Suzhou is a growing port. Throughput increased from 330 million tonnes in 2010 to 550 million in 2020. Zhiwen Wu adds, “We are a contributor to strong regional growth in the Yangtze delta region. Experience shows the port is a powerful engine to drive the hinterland economy: indirect output value, employment opportunities, local taxes, and developing local infrastructure.”

Port to customer: last-mile delivery

So what if the last stages of a goods’ journey from port to door? “Recent times have shown the increasing importance of Light Commercial Vehicles to individuals and society in terms of delivering goods and services,” says Christian Kassyda, Director Transport Policies – Public Affairs, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. “We are in the midst of a transformation to local zero-emission mobility and logistics, and the pace of change continues to accelerate in the key areas of electrification, digitisation and automation. This is about making traffic safer, more environmentally friendly, and more efficient.”

Jacob Bangsgaard, CEO of ERTICO-ITS Europe adds, “Smart sustainable mobility is what we do, and Logistics is a priority area for us. We are keen to continue strengthening dialogue in this area, so Logistics has naturally become a bigger and more important element of our Congress. Please join us in Hamburg to learn more.”

The ITS World Congress takes place in Hamburg, Germany from 11-15 October 2021. For more information please click here.

You can listen to the full Webinar ‘Goods Journey from Ports to Customers: Smart and Sustainable Ports of the Future’ here!