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TALKING SMARTER APPROACHES TO PORT INFRASTRUCTURE AT MENA CONFERENCE

By Richard Hepworth, President, Trelleborg’s marine systems operation

The Port of Duqm is to become fully operational by 2019. The Port of Sohar is set for expansion in 2018 as per its 2040 master plan to become a major logistics hub. The Suez Canal Zone is prepared for development with new infrastructure to connect the east and west of the Nile by 2018. These examples provide just a snapshot of port authority and operator activity across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), as they continue to expand and upgrade their infrastructure to remain competitive, with a focus on optimization and innovation.

I joined industry professionals from The Dubai Maritime City Authority, The General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone, The Hamburg Port Authority and more at The Port Development MENA Conference (26-28 Sept, Dubai) to discuss key challenges and debate best practice methodologies for securing, constructing and operating port infrastructure in the MENA region.

Tino Klemm, CFO of The Hamburg Port Authority discussed the inevitable major impact of The Internet of things (IoT) on the marine industry. I too discussed change, in particular disruption which has been a key area of focus for us over the last year or so. Our industry is notoriously conservative in embracing new trends and processes, but change is coming, and quickly.

This disruption, this radical shaking-up of the shipping, logistics and wider maritime business-model is already underway. I talked about ‘hypercollaboration’ – built on the idea that different stakeholders have different strengths – making partnerships throughout the supply chain and across industries not only profitable but necessary to survival, an idea that Jesse Damsky, Commercial Director at The Port of Salalah alluded to at the conference. From Amazon to Maersk and Alibaba, I’m sure we can all think of examples of tie-ups and collaborations where non-traditional players, those that understand data and smart technologies, are already transforming our sector.

So, for suppliers, it’s about acting now and taking advantage of new technology to provide ports and terminals with new ways to enhance operational efficiency.

When talking about changing business-models and increasing, technology-driven collaboration, we must also talk about standards. By that I mean common standards, the ability of different products and services to connect and talk to each other to really support improved operations. This really is critical. Smarter infrastructure needs open architecture.

If we are to facilitate hyper-collaboration and adopt smart technology on a widespread basis then ultimately a common, standardized communication platform is required. As vessels, ports and hinterland transport become part of a connected eco-system, a ‘shipping OS’ is needed – a common platform with shared standards, where data access supersedes data ownership.

Trelleborg occupies a unique position at the interface between ship and port. We are helping ships enter and leave port in the safest, most efficient way possible and for us this involves developing products and services to collaborate with third party systems and third party assets. In this way, we’re committed to ensuring port and terminal operations can connect effectively, obtaining the most complete overview of real-time data to operate in the most efficient way.

In short: change is smart; smart is now; and open and smart is best.