Being a smart port is about collecting data from across the port ecosystem and transforming it into valuable insights to create customer value, says Raoul Tan, Business Manager, Digital Business Solutions, Port of Rotterdam

  1. How do you define a Smart Port?

For me a Smart Port is about creating customer value in the most efficient, sustainable and safest way. Of course, today’s technology brings huge potential to the table but in the end it has to be contributing to the core values of the port, the port operations and the port community. Smart ports need to collaborate and co-create within the global supply chain, connecting all parties, to eventually become an ecosystem of ecosystems.

  1. You mentioned customer satisfaction, safe way of handling things and efficiency. In these areas what is the role of technology?

The Port of Rotterdam has implemented a Port Community System that enables all parties within the port community to act as a single entity and to exchange and re-use data in a secure and standardized manner. We have equipped the entire port area with sensors that get a lot of data, which we combine with operational information and public information and we use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms that allow the Harbour Master department to more precisely predict the best time to berth or depart depending on water conditions while still guaranteeing maximum capacity utilisation.

  1. Port and other stakeholders generate huge amount of data. How do you use this data?

You need to have good quality of data along with the right standards and the right definitions to be able to interpret data and to exchange data between several systems.

I always perceive it as a closed circle where it starts with data, turning into information, turning into valuable insight and in the end take action based on those insights.

  1. Can you share an example on how this data is used and re-used for bringing efficiency?

We have introduced a port call optimisation programme within the Port of Rotterdam, wherein a data exchange platform is developed based on the data definitions introduced by the International Taskforce for Port Call Optimisation, which is driven by the industry. It brings efficiency by enabling all parties involved in a port call to collaborate by sharing standardized information about their port operations in real-time. We combine data from all parties in the port and everybody has an overview of what is about to happen but also if something unplanned occurs a notification is released so they are able to adjust their planning, which has proven to result in lots of efficiency and environmental benefits.

  1. For stakeholders time and cost efficiency are the two things they consider while dealing with a port. Are the port users able to identify these benefits?

Both at the port authority and in the port community everybody is getting aware of the value that is in collaboration and sharing of data. On the other hand not everybody starts off with immediate benefits to an initiative, we have a principle called the coalition of the willing, so we see which parties are sharing our vision and we cooperate with these parties to have proof points so that others will see the benefits and will join eventually.

  1. When you look at the newly developing hub ports in countries like India and Africa, the initial interest was into developing physical infrastructure. Where do you see them getting onto the digital infrastructure?

The first step should be to develop a strategy. We developed the connected port strategy and a model and step-bystep approach on how to implement this. We also use the model of Port of Rotterdam to mentor our port authorities on digital strategy and developments. We are happy to interact with other port authorities to share our knowledge and solutions.

  1. What is port forward?

We have bundled all the smart solutions that we have developed and these add up to the Port Forward portfolio. These are smart, data-driven solutions and models built on open platforms, aimed to connect and facilitate interoperability. Our Port Forward solutions, knowledge and best-practices are open for all ports around the globe to see what will be the business value when these solutions are implemented in their ports.