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Ultra-large containerships and smart ports

Ultra-large containerships and smart ports
Ultra-large containerships, efficiency going beyond the smart port to the “intelligent load” were the focus of the 26th Latin American Congress of Ports of the American Association of Port Authorities-AAPA-, in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

With the "intelligent load" the merchandise carries a chip inside the container with all the shipping information and value is added through technology, scanners, big data or the construction of intelligent logistics centres.

Opening of the meeting, Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and ceo, stressed that beyond the trends in shipping and port sector - such as the alliances of the container lines or the impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal-, political changes are taking place that also lead to potential new conflicts that will impact port activity. He added that the tools offered by AAPA, from management training courses to the network of contacts and work in the specific committees with various initiatives, allow facing these new times of uncertainty in the industry.

The president of SSA International, Carlos Urriola, said that while shipping lines want more dredging and more docks, there are other ways to achieve efficiency such as reviewing the flows, seeking to reduce the stay of ships in ports, targeting systems used by airlines, especially by exchanging more data. He recognised that it is an industry that is difficult to change and it will it be to the ‘millennials’ to be the ones facing the changes.

 "Everyone in this business is quite wrong. Suddenly a great capacity is created and the big lines want to have ships of 20,000 teu and the economy does not grow,” he said. Another key element is the lines are optimising - read by reducing - the calls and in addition, some go through the entire chain.

At the same time he warned that no matter how much automation there is, there is always a person behind a computer; the case of blackout in the Maersk systems being an example. Finally, “beyond the incorporation of technology, it is necessary to invest more in the training of human resources that have to manage it. Automation will inevitably make a social problem.”

Giovanni Benedetti, commercial manager of the Regional Port Society of Cartagena, warned that the ports that cannot receive the big ships will be left out.. “Today, Maersk offers an integral system and becomes a sort of ‘Uber of transport’. On the other hand, we must see what will happen with the large e-commerce companies that go through the chain. So, it is increasingly important that the information is controlled by the one who has the assets,” he said.

Yurik Diaz, division manager of Terminales Portuarias SAAM of Chile - strong in terminals and tugs in the region - also showed his concern for the shipping concentration, an industry that has been in red for many years and now seems to recover a little. "There is a great demand on port structures but at the same time oversupply is created when it is not necessary," he said.

The director for the East Coast of South America of Maersk, Antonio Domínguez, stressed that the actions of the company are in favour of the system. "Maersk has the courage of the leader, because from the position of the largest containerised line in the world since the mid-1990s, it is a company that does not stop reinventing itself," he said.

"We must bear in mind that in times when trade levels are not good, the shipping companies help and for example, allow the cargo to be shipped in small volumes to new markets," he said. Maersk sees the long term very positive and especially on the East Coast of South America where there is much to be done, for example, in the dredging of access to ports, he said.

Patrick Verhoeven, general director of policy and strategy of the Belgium-based International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), underlined the trends of being alert to new schemes of global commercial alliances - USA, UK, Vietnam and Japan-, the search for sustainable development in ports, the review of processes, more incorporation of IT - if a Smart Port is sought - and the possibility of facing port partnerships seeking new business.

Next year, the 107th Annual Convention of AAPA will take place in Valparaíso, Chile. The continental event of the Association will bring together the members of the port community of the hemisphere, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and that for the first time, will take place in South America.

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