How AI Is Transforming Ports into Smart Hubs of Efficiency

Artificial intelligence has been making headlines regularly for enabling innovations in industries as varied as finance and medicine. AI is basically the process of simulating human intelligence processes by machines, specifically computer systems. With its potential to reduce human error, improve operational efficiency, and minimise risks, it comes as no surprise that an increasing number of sectors are now looking into the adoption and implementation of AI into their processes. Among these sectors is the maritime industry.

AI is considered a key technology for the development of the so-called “smart ports”—ports that maximise breakthrough technologies and data-driven solutions to boost port operations and safety. Some even believe that smart ports could not exist without AI. This breakthrough technology has already impacted global logistics enterprises and is expected to continuously influence the development of the maritime industry. In fact, some of the biggest ports in the world—including Los Angeles, Rotterdam, and Singapore—are already utilising AI tools to streamline cargo transfers, vessel scheduling, and other procedures. 

Why AI is Essential in Smart Ports

As mentioned earlier, a smart port is an automated port that makes use of data analytics tools, such as AI, to run operations efficiently and make the right business decisions. The concept is to leverage smart technology to increase the efficiency of the port, enhance its performance, and strengthen its economic competitiveness. Implementing an automated port will benefit not just the port itself but the broader supply chain. Now, to develop a smart port, the adoption and use of AI tools are utterly necessary.

AI essentially converts data with high-power algorithms to simulate the thought processes of humans. Since port operations are usually mundane and redundant, there are plenty of past and real-time generated data that can be plugged into these AI technologies and algorithms. At present, AI has already automated trucks, vessels, and even a couple of existing port management systems. In the Port of Los Angeles, for instance, autonomous container trucks and cranes used to transport cargo within the port terminal are already being utilised. The Port of Rotterdam also employs AI tools for its digital smart port operations.

In Singapore, the use of AI to improve port operations has been explored as early as 2018. At present, the Port of Singapore is developing a communication tool called “digitalPort@SG” to maximise AI data analysis that will enable Just-in-Time arrivals and improve the port’s productivity. Furthermore, since hundreds of vessels call on the Singapore Strait each month, enhancing vessel safety through AI port technology is also in the work. All these applications ultimately prove that AI is an integral smart port technology that the maritime sector cannot dispense with.

Three Ways AI Helps Facilitate Smart Ports 

1. Automating Port Operations

Port automation and optimisation is an area where AI is already advancing port sustainability and efficiency. Machine learning allows algorithms to “learn” from the data of a port, thereby predicting job durations according to the types of ships and services required. These predictions enable algorithms to deploy resources like pilot boats and tugboats efficiently, solve complicated puzzles, and take into consideration additional constraints, such as the necessity to assign pilots to particular types and sizes of vessels depending on their licence.

In essence, AI-powered automation and optimisation of port operations give the assurance that every moving component aligns to welcome vessels precisely when they arrive in ports. This has a direct impact on the waiting times of incoming vessels, thereby minimising congestion and helping eliminate overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from port operations. For instance, in the Port of Tanjung Priok in Indonesia, the use of AI-powered MarineM systems has lessened distances travelled by ships by 20% and cut the average waiting times for visiting vessels from more than two hours to around 30 minutes.

2. Optimising Berth Management 

The use of AI as a smart port technology can also assist in optimising berth management and ensuring that the right vessel is assigned to the right berth at the right time. The allocation of berth is a complicated problem since vessels and resources should be allocated to the right berth in consideration of a number of constraints, such as the availability of cranes, the size and type of ship, and the necessity for offshore power. Ensuring proper berth allocation is expected to become even more essential in the future, as ships will be powered by various kinds of fuels and clean technologies, thereby making their needs for port services more particular.

3. Managing Congestion 

By simply looking at the development and expansion of AI technology, it is reasonable to expect a future where AI-powered algorithms will have the ability to analyse and forecast levels of port congestion using aerial imagery. This port technology can allow ports to determine critical situations and take proactive solutions to mitigate congestion, further optimise port operations, and minimise their environmental impact. AI can also assist in predicting vessel arrival times with more accuracy, which will support vital initiatives like Just-in-Time arrivals. Along with congestion predictions, this can be used to advise vessels when they can reduce their speed and minimise their CO2 emissions in the process.


As technology advances, ports must evolve with technology. Indeed, in today’s increasingly interconnected world, the efficient management of port traffic has become crucial for achieving seamless port operations and facilitating global trade. As ports around the world become more and more automated and digitised, maximising AI has emerged as a game-changer for streamlining port management processes. With the use of this breakthrough technology, ports can automate their operations, optimise the way they manage their berths, and resolve the issue of congestion, among others. All these are hallmarks of a truly efficient smart port.

About Maritime Fairtrade

Maritime Fairtrade is a reputable independent digital news platform that is widely known for delivering the latest updates on the Asian maritime trade to the public. Our team consists of knowledgeable and experienced professionals and writers committed to providing extensive coverage of maritime regulation changes and insightful analyses of emerging trends within the shipping industry. Feel free to explore our maritime guide in Singapore to stay up-to-date about the most recent maritime news in the Asian region. Aside from news and analyses, our website also contains trusted recommendations for the most cost-effective shipping courses in Singapore.


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