For the Port of Rotterdam, it is about using technology to help customers. Lee Kok Leong reports on how the port is leveraging on the Internet of Things (IoT) to save one hour in berthing time which can amount to US$80,000 in savings for shipping companies.
Which specific challenges does IoT actually solve for customers?
That is the important question to ask and answer before jumping onto the bandwagon of investing in the latest technology. The key is to focus on creating value for the customers. For example, if through IoT, you have the data that can assure 10 cm more depth, then a ship can load dozens of tons more cargo and increase its profit in the process.
Or if the ship handling process can be cut by an hour, this can save tens of thousands of dollars. And when a shipping company knows that the precise timing a container will be ready for pick-up, they can have more efficient planning, which in turn, allows it to save on transport costs and environmental levies, and achieve shorter lead times.
This is exactly what the Port of Rotterdam is doing.
It is collaborating with IBM on a multi-year digitization initiative to transform the port’s operational environment using IoT technologies in the cloud to benefit the port and those who use it. With the new initiative, Port of Rotterdam operators will also be able to view the operations of all the different parties at the same time, making that process more efficient.
In fact, shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time which can amount to about US$80,000 in savings. The initiative will also prepare the Port of Rotterdam’s entire 42-kilometre site to host connected ships in the future.
It begins with the development of a centralized dashboard application that will collect and process real-time water (hydro), weather (meteo) sensor data and communications data, analyzed through the IBM IoT platform. This will enable a new wave of safer and more efficient traffic management at the port.
Now, as the Port of Rotterdam begins its digital transformation, sensors are being installed across 42 kilometers of land and sea – spanning from the City of Rotterdam into the North Sea – along the Port’s quay walls, mooring posts and roads.
These sensors will gather multiple data streams including water (hydro) and weather (meteo) data about tides and currents, temperature, wind speed and direction, water levels, berth availability and visibility. The first application for hydro/meteo has recently been put into operation.
“Here in Rotterdam, we are taking action to become the smartest port in the world,” says Paul Smits, chief financial officer of the Port of Rotterdam Authority.
“Speed and efficiency are essential to our business, and requires us to use all of the data available to us.
“Thanks to real-time information about infrastructure, water, air, etc., we can enormously improve the service we provide to everyone who uses the port, and prepare to embrace the connected, autonomous shipping of the future.”
The data collected is analyzed by IBM’s cloud-based IoT technologies and turned into information that the Port of Rotterdam can use to make decisions that reduce wait times, determine optimal times for ships to dock, load and unload, and enable more ships into the available space.
For example, the Port of Rotterdam will now be able to predict the best time based on water level, to have a ship arrive and depart Rotterdam, ensuring that the maximum amount of cargo is loaded on board.
“It’s a fantastic step in the development of Rotterdam as ‘smartest port’,” stated Ronald Paul, the Port Authority’s Chief Operating Officer.
“Just as important, however, is that the cloud platform and the generated real-time information, which includes infrastructure, water and weather condition data, enable us to further improve mission-critical processes in the service to our clients.”
The generic building blocks that have now been implemented offer the Port of Rotterdam a safe and reliable basis for rapid innovation with access to the latest technologies, including edge computing, real-time analytics, artificial intelligence, hyper-precise data and blockchain.
And that’s very much needed, because the port area is always developing, with such things as new physical infrastructure being given an increasingly greater digital aspect.
For instance, sensors incorporated on and in quay walls, dolphins, waterways, roads and traffic signs generate continued measurement data and these can communicate with other autonomous systems. This lays the foundation to facilitate autonomous shipping in the Port of Rotterdam in the future.
First mission-critical application
The proof of the pudding of the IoT platform was the completion of the hydro/meteo application. It is the first time that the generic IoT platform was used for a mission-critical application. Of course, this needed to satisfy the highest safety, reliability and standardization requirements.
The application is actually essential in decision support during the safe and efficient handling of shipping.
44 sensors in the port
The delivered hydro/meteo system obtains height of tide, tidal stream, salinity, wind speed, wind direction and visibility data via a combination of 44 sensors in the port, many prediction models, data from Rijkswaterstaat and astronomical calculations.
This enables the application to contribute to reductions of waiting times and optimization of berthing, loading/unloading and departure times. The technology allows, for example, to more precisely predict the best time to berth and depart, depending on water conditions, while guaranteeing maximum loads.
1.2 million data points
Users of the hydro/meteo system include the Pilotage Service, Rijkswaterstaat, DCMR and various departments within the Port Authority. It is expected that the number of users will increase further.
The use of global and open standards means that it has never been easier for external parties to connect with this real-time data. Each day, the platform is already processing some 1.2 million data points for models, systems and users.