Ports are in different phases of digitalization. How to get all on board?

We all acknowledge that digital technologies are inevitably going to change every industry. Digital tools are present in our everyday lives from online grocery shopping to smart watches’ pedometers or cars’ automatic lane keeping support. You must admit they really ease our lives in many ways!

In port industry, the number of operations and different stakeholders working in the same area create challenges to digitalization. How to synchronize the vast information flows and ensure the different solutions communicate with each other? How to teach people from different backgrounds to utilize these tools? How to determine the best platforms which suite the environment of just this port, and really enhances the effectiveness of digital transformation?

In this article, we discuss on findings gathered from discussions with many professionals of the port industry. The article emphasizes the concerns about digitalization, describes the roadblocks, and also elaborates on the opportunities digital tools can bring in the port industry.


The background of the port can affect the digital maturity

Ports can be privately or publicly owned and there is a vast variety of different management arrangements. Whether the port is public or private does not determine the level of digitalization, but it may affect the amount of different data sources to be integrated in the digitalization process. Public authorities often have their own GIS databases, for example, which are used also by the local port. This raises a question of sharing the information, as different stakeholders may not have the same software or knowhow to handle for example CAD or other types of 3D files.


Cloud platforms have wiped out the need of printing.


With many parts of port operations and other stakeholders involved comes also many different types and formats of data. Integrating the data in the same place is the key for everyone to reach the information easily. The old way was to print everything, as paper is a format everyone can access, but nowadays cloud platforms have wiped out the need of printing. Data standardization is a common wish of port managers, as it is seen as one of the biggest roadblocks in integrating data together.

Digital transformation is described as a change in ways of working. If the difference of digital resources, such as suitable software, or lack of data standardization, keeps the information sharing mostly paper-based, you can’t say that the port has gone very far in its digital path.


Size of the port does not always matter

Even though bigger ports with loads of international traffic seem to be ahead in the digitalization, smaller ports may actually have better starting point for digitalization. The first step of digital path is often the digital twin of the port, which is easier to create in smaller ports, and hence the development for utilization of digital tools starts more quickly.

That being said, we need to remember that every digitizing project needs resources, which in the smaller ports may be scarcer than in big seaports. It creates a need for easy-to-use software, in which the digital tools affecting the port’s operations are understandable in the context of port personnel’s everyday work. Also, it is important to bear in mind that small ports are not identical, but they vary in the environmental aspects, amounts of traffic or types of cargo, for example. Every port needs to able to build a digital workflow best suitable for their needs. We should still be able to exchange ideas and learnings within the industry. Not everyone needs to reinvent the wheel!

team meeting

How to bring up the level of digitalization in the port industry?

As European and worldwide targets for reducing the carbon footprint of maritime industry are ambitious, we need to make sure every port has the same possibilities to get started on their path to digitalization. Creating affordable and uncomplicated ways of taking digital tools along with the normal maritime business brings digitalization to all the levels of work, not only to administration and management.

Involving all the personnel into the digital development might sound tricky, as the change always creates resistance at first. Being able to see the benefits in practice and discover how things can be done easier often convinces even the most persistent people.


We develop solutions affordable and easy to implement and use for ports of all kinds.


So, what can we as software providers do to ease the digital transformation of ports? We can develop solutions affordable and easy to implement and use for ports of all kinds. We must not forget the people doing the everyday work but take them along in making the transition instead. We need to remember that a big part of digitalization is about information, and discover ways to easily store and share the information. Sounds easy in writing, but we also recognize the challenges in real life, and are continuously working with ports and gathering information to solve as many of those challenges as possible. We want to ensure every port, despite of its size, can take its part on creating more sustainable future for maritime industry.


Want to know how GISGRO can help on your port’s digital path?

Book on online demo meeting with GISGRO specialist to discuss more about how cloud technology can get you a kick-start on digitalization. Team GISGRO has over 10 years of experience in port digitalization. You can simply book a time suitable for you from the calendar.

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