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THE RISE OF THE MACHINES OR SIMPLY EFFECTIVE AUTOMATION?

By Richard Hepworth, president of Trelleborg’s marine systems operation

Technology features in this blog on a regular basis and quite rightly so. Technology is already having a positive impact on our industry in many different ways, from improved communication and collaboration to safety and operational efficiencies. But the recent announcement by technology group, Wartsila, shows just how much further the industry can benefit from advances in automation.

Wartsila’s latest system automates on-board procedures to provide reliable and more efficient vessel manoeuvring which also reduces risk and improves safety. At a time when ship sizes are increasing and the industry as a whole is facing tough times, this is a positive development with obvious benefits. It is also, hopefully, the precursor to greater take up of automating technologies across the industry as a whole, whether on-board, landside or on jetties.

Our own research (see Preparing for the Port of the Future Report) showed how different marine audiences have different attitudes towards the adoption of smart technologies.  There was a definite appetite among shipping lines for ports and terminals to keep up with the pace of change and implement digital technologies more widely. Vessel stakeholders seem to have woken up to the value of automation and while landside operations have also matured, the survey results indicate facilities haven’t been as quickly upgraded on the jetty side. Half of shipping lines felt ports and terminals were immature in the implementation of smart technologies and lagged behind available technology, but noticeably, little more than a third of ports and terminals claim to have experienced increased pressure from shipping lines to automate.

This is a worrying gap, and one which mustn’t widen. Developments such as Wartsila’s highlight how ports and terminals are only going to face increasing pressure to adopt smart technologies and to keep up with advancing on-board technology. They do not want to be left behind. Finding out how your facility compares to the rest of the industry in terms of digital automation is an important exercise and a useful first step. This is why Trelleborg has developed an online tool that allows ports and terminals to assess their digital maturity, quickly and easily, and to find out how they compare automation-wise against the industry standard. Have a go at the Port and Terminal Automation Audit here.

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