6 Facts About Ports
Innovation and opportunities: Ports shake off ‘conservative’ image
Ports have often attracted too little attention. Policymakers and the public have sometimes been unaware of the critical role that ports play in delivering the food, fuel and consumer goods essential to all of our daily lives.
Here are 6 intersting facts about Ports that you may, or may not know.
1.About 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry. It is often said that without shipping, half the world would freeze and the other half would starve. Ports are key nodes — but also potential bottlenecks — in millions of global supply chains.
2. Containerisation has provided a modular, regular and efficient way to transport a huge range of cargoes: raw materials, semi-finished goods, components, food, clothing, household goods and other consumer items, often in highly sensitive just-in-time supply chains. However, ports have been challenged as the world’s container ships have increased in size. The largest container ships operating today carry around 24,000 teu (twenty-foot equivalent units, the standard measurement of containers). Larger ships bring dramatic surges of containers loaded/unloaded with consequent risk and concern about congestion and bottlenecks. Ports must find ways to improve throughput and deliver safe, resilient, low-carbon and consistent operations — around the clock and in all weathers.
3.The maritime sector has traditionally been seen as ‘conservative’ in its approach. However, there has been a major push for innovation in recent years as ports and terminals seek the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Smart ports, automation, digital twins and the Internet of Things (IoT) are now part of mainstream conversation and investment planning. Remote control equipment and vehicles, the use of drones, the installation of sensors to support predictive maintenance, intelligent infrastructure and automation are all gathering pace.
4. Ports have often attracted little attention, with policymakers and the public sometimes unaware of the role the industry plays in delivering the food, fuel and consumer goods essential for daily life. However, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a much better understanding of what ports do. The sustainability / Net Zero agenda has created a new focus too; consumers are demanding greener, more sustainable supply chains, and that pressure is feeding through to ports and shipping. Ports are under pressure to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and waste.
5.The ports industry has an ageing workforce and faces a challenge in recruiting and retaining new people. The younger generation is reluctant to take on what would be seen as traditional jobs in cargo handling and moving. Automation provides a double solution — eliminating the need for large numbers of workers in dangerous, dirty environments, while providing new and attractive high-tech jobs in an innovative environment.
6.The Covid-19 pandemic has had short and long-term impacts on the global ports sector. Huge demand for consumer goods, especially through e-commerce, has led to unprecedented pressures on global supply chains, dramatic spikes in freight rates and port congestion around the world. In this scenario, ports continue to seek ways to improve efficiency and speed of cargo handling. UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) has noted that in many aspects, the pandemic merely brought to the surface and magnified challenges and difficulties that already existed — including, notably, labour shortages and the need to upgrade infrastructure. UNCTAD has said that global recovery will depend on smart, resilient and sustainable maritime transport.