Smart Ports: the ports of the future

Seaports currently represent one of the most important logistics centres for each territory due to the fact that more than 80% of worldwide freight is transported using this method according to figures from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Port services in Spain, a traditional coastal country and  gateway to the Mediterranean , account for the employment of 11 million people and involve the transport of 3 million containers per year, according to data from Spain’s Port Authority.

In an ever changing, innovative and evolving climate, ports are yet another part of the global mechanism undergoing this ongoing transformation. This has been behind the creation of the so-called Smart Ports, a term that is so new that it is yet to be definitively defined, but that we will analyse in this article.

The Smart Port concept entails the use of technologies to transform the different public services at ports into interactive systems. And its purpose? To meet the needs of port users with a greater level efficiency, transparency, and value.

This technological application will allow the installation of cameras at the entrance to the port to record licence plates of vehicles that arrive and exit, monitor queues of lorries at the entrances to the terminals in order to facilitate internal port traffic planning, and will also include forecasting systems and security alerts (such as storm forecasts).

This concept therefore revolves around two ideas that are as innovative as required in this new global and social context: efficiency and use of resources. The incorporation of technological measures will have a direct impact on the different port terminal services and products, due to how, aside from facilitating and optimising port management, they will also enhance the operation of the facilities at each port .


While smart ports revolve around concepts that already represent a direct benefit for all port terminal users and customers, experts also point to other additional benefits:

  • An increased commercial return: the efficiency of maritime transport and its management at the port will impact on the final price of products and services.
  • Institutional Transformation: the management of the ports depends on different public administrations such as the merchant navy, customs, or public safety, which will make it simplified and automated.
  • Digital transformation: not only in terms of optimisation of loading, unloading, stowage, storage, etc., but also in the detection of different risks in maritime transport such as adverse weather or high levels of contamination.

A very current future

The introduction of new technologies at different ports around the world is far from being a futuristic concept, thanks to the many initiatives, projects and programmes that are already in place for the development of technological measures for maritime enclaves. In fact, certain experts believe that these ports shall be the only ones that will be able to survive in the not too distant future, due to being the only ones that can meet the ecological necessity and high-productivity demands while retaining certain sustained costs.

Some real-life cases where this Smart Port concept is already implemented in Spain is at Seville port, which aims to optimise ship traffic and port operations with the Tecnoport project, as well as in Vigo, involved in energy efficiency and monitoring of berths with the Smart Viport System, or at Barcelona port, focusing on the innovation of logistics with the Port Challenge programme.

They are far from being alone. Other “smart” ports (already developed or underway) are located in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Hamburg (Germany), Singapore (which has earned the nickname “ connected port”), Shenzhen and Shanghai ports in China, and those located in Los Angeles and San Diego (the USA), to name a few.

This is a future that is already here and we must jump on board in order to move forward with the times. Our company Bilogistik is therefore aware of the latest trends and technologies in order to apply them in the optimised, comprehensive and complete logistics services that it provides to all its customers.

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