IT Science: How Port of Rotterdam Aims to be 'Smartest Terminal'

Using IBM data streams and AI, shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour each in berthing time, which can amount to about $80,000 in savings per day.


This is the latest article in a new feature series in eWEEK called IT Science, in which we look at what really happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them will be success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic:  Port of Rotterdam Undergoes IT Transformation

Name the problem to be solved: As Europe’s largest port by cargo tonnage, the Port of Rotterdam has the goal of transforming its operations to become the smartest, fastest and most efficient port in the world.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution:  To achieve this goal, the Port of Rotterdam is using IoT, artificial intelligence and smart weather data from IBM and infusing those technologies throughout their operations. Combining local data from the port with data from The Weather Company, an IBM company, the port is able to predict the best departure or arrival times into and out of the port in the most favorable conditions, reducing wait times, allowing more ships to enter the port, and predicting the best time (based on water level) for a ship to arrive and depart with the maximum amount of cargo loaded on board.

This data will be displayed on a single dashboard, enabling communication and operations monitoring across all parties at the same time. Additionally, Port of Rotterdam is creating a digital twin of the port using IBM IoT sensors. This will be an exact digital replica of its operations that will mirror all resources at the port, tracking ship movements, infrastructure, weather, geographical and water depth data with 100 percent accuracy to help test scenarios and better understand how to improve efficiencies across operations, while maintaining strict safety standards.

List the key components in the solution: Key components of this initiative include IoT sensors, artificial intelligence and smart weather data that will predict water and weather conditions. Additionally, digital dolphins (smart quay walls and sensor-equipped buoys) will help support ship-to-ship cargo transfer and generate time-stamped data about their status and direct environment.

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned: Port of Rotterdam is in the early stages of this digital transformation. It is currently in the process of enhancing its 42-kilometre port area from the City of Rotterdam all the way into the North Sea, with IBM Internetof Things (IoT) technologies and IBM Cloud to create the digital twin of the port.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained and what was learned from the project: This digital transformation will allow Port of Rotterdam to view the operations of all parties at the same time and increase volume and efficiency of shipped goods that pass through the port, as well as manage traffic more efficiently. Furthermore, by enabling more ships to enter, the Port of Rotterdam stands to increase its own revenue.

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings and staff time savings, if any: Shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time, which can amount to about $80,000 in savings per day. When multiplied across the 140,000 ships entering the port per year, this means that the port will be able to dock more ships–reducing the costs for shipping companies and increasing revenue for the Port of Rotterdam.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...