Digitization in sea ports and maritime transport. Full steam ahead - MarinePoland.com
Digitization in sea ports and maritime transport. Full steam ahead
Date of publication: 19.11.2021

A new study has appeared on the market entitled ‘ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping’. The authors of this comprehensive book, ‘ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping’, edited by Michele Fiorini and Natalie Gupta, came from a wide variety of maritime institutions composed of eminent engineers, researchers and scientists in the global maritime arena – underlines prof. Angelica M. Baylon.

The book was edited for three years. Nevertheless, the publication is very up-to-date. It contains all the current trends in seaports and maritime transport. The reader receives 460 pages of professional and competent information about what is happening in global maritime logistics. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on shipping and port management is also considered.

Adapt or die in the shipping

The VUCA time (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) we live in forces policymakers to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability from traditional activities to more innovative online activities. Adapt or Die seems to be a more appropriate message for traditional business owners these days, the book's editors write.
Around 80% of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea, and the percentage is even higher for most developing countries. The shipping industry is increasingly getting bigger. Orders for new shipping capacity reached a record of about 3.5 million twenty-foot containers so far this year, 2021, exceeding the previous high from 2007. We are living an interconnected digital world. To be effective modern systems are conceived according to ‘Secure by design’ principles aiming to guarantee three core cybersecurity attributes: confidentiality, integrity and availability.

Knowledge grows when it is shared and used

– Editing a book is a collegial efforts and require a considerable deal of time and dedications. I used to have a systems engineering approach to edit a book. At the end you have to deal with different contributes and your task is to integrate them in an harmonised logic flow that is worth of consideration to the readers. Nothing very different from integrating a large system and make it working according to user needs – inform Dr Michele Fiorini. He adds: – To motivate myself, I like to quote Karl-Erik Sveiby, professor emeritus at Hanken School of Economics in Finland, who said „Knowledge grows when it is shared and used; unused knowledge deteriorates”. Moreover publishing with the IET, a not-for-profit organization, means to me returning something to the profession (I am #ProudToEngineer) and the charity.

Interconnection and harmonization

Today we are seeing disruptions in global supply chains. The shipping connection does not guarantee timely deliveries. Port terminals are not able to cope with the supply of containers. Freight rates increased several times despite the low quality of customer service and delayed deliveries of goods. Dr. Fiorini is right to say:

– In order to substain a high level of trades maritime transports have to be globally interconnected, harmonised, efficient and sustainable and this is only possible by making use of electronic means to exchange informations among different stakeholds.

He gives examples to prove this point: – Just consider the EU Single Window initiative, the IMO e-navigation or even the more recent South Korean Government investments seeking to boost the domestic eco-friendly and smart shipping industry and so on. Also from the ports prospective all trends are going to fully automate loading and unloading mega-ships and container’s movements among the port areas. All of those are making use of information and communication tecnology (ICT) solutions and some degree of automation, which means digitalisation.

Digitalisation in the maritime industry

The editors of the book mention as the basic factors of digitization in shipping, seaports and maritime logistics: digital solutions that can help to reduce operational expenses (OPEX) such as fuel, port charges; new technologies that are increasing the viability of making the business more digital; new regulations that require vastly more reporting. Emission monitoring, EU-MRV (monitor, reporting and verification) reporting and ensuring IMO compliance can be done digitally and, to a large extent, automatically. This will reduce working hours for men and increase accuracy in reporting. Finally, new expectations are emerging when it comes to transparency and the sharing of information between operators and clients, operators and vendors and operators and governments. Digitalisation will make it easier to increase transparency and share what should be transparent, while ensuring that business information is held securely in the operators’ hands.

Container transport in the storm

The container shipping market is experiencing a perfect storm of Covid-driven purchasing demand and port congestion (or containers shortage), and storms & typhoons boost freight rates. The shipping operating costs have been rised constantly in the last few years, with a peak in 2020 and very slow recovery ahead. Asset prices have doubled in six months or so – Dr. Fiorini justifies digitization by referring to the situation in 2021 and explains: – Companies are struggling to find creative solutions to improve resilience of the entire supply chain logistics while the tendency of mega-shipping and global corridors seems indisputable. The shipping industry is increasingly getting bigger. Orders for new shipping capacity reached a record of about 3.5 million twenty-foot containers so far this year, 2021, exceeding the previous high from 2007, according to Drewry.

Dr. Fiorini emphasizes that the outlook for freight markets remains highly uncertain and the prevalence of the pandemic continues to disrupt vessel operations. The pressure on costs reduction will probably dampen any likely inflation, but the global energy transaction and the demand for sustainable infrastructures (decarbonisation regulations) will add to owner cost burdens over the medium term.

Confidentiality, integrity and availability

– To be effective, modern systems are conceived according to ‘Secure by design’ principles aiming to guarantee three core cybersecurity attributes: confidentiality, integrity and availability – says Dr Michele Fiorini. When this is not possible, for instance because the systems are already on operation or getting older, it is necessary to consider the three pillars of cybersecurity: people, process and technology. And proceed according to the „cumulative act effect”. Thus, if we cannot prevent to access a machine by software, we may close it into a rack cabinet (or a room) locked with key.


The most obvious short-term benefits of digitalisation are tied to OPEX reductions such as energy and fuel savings, smarter maintenance, smoother logistics and automatic reports to reduce workload. Potential cost savings on existing OPEX on fuel management, the largest bulk cost, is 20% according to ‘ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping’. Smarter maintenance means digitall equipment monitoring and planning maintenance according to need instead of pre-scheduled visits. Digital tools that enable the sharing of data between value chain actors allows for smoother and more efficient logistics. Longer term benefits are tied to end-to-end digitalisation of the whole value chain, but we believe that is still some years away.

About the ‘ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping’ editors:

Michele Fiorini, MBA, Ph.D., CEng, FIET, coeditor ‘ICT Solutions and Digitalisation in Ports and Shipping’. He has been the Chair of the Council at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (London, United Kingdom, 2017–18) and a session chair at the Euro-Asia Economic Forum (Xi’an, China, 2013). He is a project engineering manager for Leonardo s.p.a. in Rome, Italy, and an industrial member of the e-Navigation Committee at the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) in Paris, France. He is serving as a member of the advisory board of the MBA programme at the Gdańsk University of Technology in Poland and a judge for the E&T Innovation Awards in London, United Kingdom.

Natalie Gupta is an independent consultant focusing on ports and trade facilitation. She works through her own consultancy Port Processes Ltd and is the Chair of Independent Port Consultants (IPC), a network of port consultants working internationally. Natalie works on three main streams of projects, namely feasibility studies for ports and the maritime sector, trade facilitation in the context of ports and trade corridors, and port operations-related assignments to do with performance and management. Natalie also has experience of working on bunkering in the sector and is involved in projects concerning the greenification of the sector in various country contexts.

Marek Grzybowski