Social media

International Forwarding Association Blog » Supply chain » Major Ports Digitize Processes Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak

Major Ports Digitize Processes Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak

Major ports across the globe are increasingly digitizing processes to ensure efficient workflow and keep contact to a minimum during the coronavirus outbreak. The global pandemic already caused major disruption to the global supply chain, with workers ordered to stay home and falling ill. Experts predict that ports may experience staff shortages due to the fact that certain processes require physical handling and interaction.

Ports That Already Make Use of Automation and Digitalization

The Port of Rotterdam has already introduced digital tools to reduce costs, improve safety, and ensure efficient workflow. Software tools speed up handling of inland vessels, trains, and ships. There are also tools for traders, freight forwarders, and shippers that help improve logistics chain efficiency.


PortXchange is one example and a digital solution for terminals, agents, and shipping companies. It allows operators to monitor, carry out, and plan activities with the help of standardized data exchange. In essence, this is a shared platform that allows users to access information such as stay, departure, and arrival of ships. Operators benefit from increased cargo volumes, better predictability, clear communication, improved terminal occupancy, and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Benefits for shipping companies include reduced charter and bunker costs and better call turnaround times.

Other ports such as the Port of Gothenburg and Port of Hamburg are already making use of automation systems and digital tools such as automated terminals, automated guided vehicles, 5G, and sensors for multiple data streams.

Increased Digitalization

Ternvag chief officer Johan Östlund stated that contact with service technicians, pilots, and other key crew must be kept to a minimum due to their vulnerable position. Communication mainly takes place through email exchanges and computer systems to maintain social distancing. Many ports across the globe have also reorganized processes and routines and are now using digital tools. At the same time, once ships call in, a number of interactions take place such as inspecting notices, safety checklists, permits, and quality of cargo. To this end, the Port of Gothenburg has already introduced systems and tools that allow for increased digitalization and automation and help minimize contact. Automatic gates for trucks have been installed at APM terminals to minimize physical contact and improve efficiency in processing sea freight in Europe. The port also plans to introduce digital systems for event prediction, trend identification, and data-driven decisions.

Future Developments

In the coronavirus aftermath, ports are likely to introduce and make greater use of automated systems and digital tools that will replace manual handling and paper-based processes. EagleRail Container Logistics is a point in question when it comes to port automation, making it possible to digitize and automate movement of short-haul containers. Robotic technology has been developed to replace drayage trucks and improve efficiency.

Some challenges remain with regard to data processing. There is need for solutions to harmonize vessel and crew data, cargo formats, and data sheets as some of the current routines and practices result in increased workload and paperwork and loss of productivity.