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  • Writer's pictureBella Callaway

THEMIS Use Cases: What is a Smart Port

The THEMIS 5.0 project proposes to test its technology with three use cases across different industries. The port industry is the focus of one of the use cases. The utility of THEMIS project will be tested in a smart port, specifically where artificial intelligence enables prediction of the estimated time of vessel arrival for efficient port traffic control. A smart port is a technologically advanced and interconnected maritime facility that leverages cutting-edge technologies to enhance efficiency, safety, and sustainability in port operations. Unlike traditional ports, smart ports use a range of digital solutions, automation, and data-lead systems to optimise the maritime supply chain. There are five key components and technologies leveraged by smart ports:


1)    Internet of Things (IoT): Smart ports deploy a network of sensors and devices that are interconnected through the Internet of Things. These devices collect real-time data on vessel movements, cargo status, weather conditions, and other relevant areas, enabling a more informed decision process.

2)    Automation and Robotics: Automated cranes, autonomous vehicles, and robotics systems are employed to handle cargo, improving the speed and efficiency of loading, and unloading processes. This reduces human error and enhances precision.

3)    Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI): Smart ports leverage data analytics and AI algorithms to analyse historical and real time data. Predictive analytics help to anticipate potential issues such as infrastructure damage and repair which in turn means resources can be allocated efficiently.

4)    Blockchain Technology: To enhance transparency and security in the supply chain, smart ports often integrate blockchain technology. This facilitates secure and transparent data sharing among stakeholders, reduces the risk of fraud and ensures traceability.

5)    Environmental Sustainability Initiatives: Smart ports prioritise eco-friendly practices, incorporating renewable energy sources, electric-powered equipment, and other sustainable technologies to reduce their environmental impact.

Source: BCG Analysis

Smart ports bring a multitude of benefits to the maritime industry, fostering efficiency, sustainability, and heightened operational capabilities. One of the main advantages lies in enhanced efficiency through the integration of advanced technologies. Automation and digital infrastructure can streamline port operations, optimising the flow of goods and reducing turnaround times for vessels, which in turn minimises waiting times for cargo. This increased efficiency naturally translates to substantial economic savings for shipping companies, manufacturers and ultimately customers.


Moreover, the deployment of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence allows for proactive decision-making. By analysing both historical and real-time data, smart ports can predict potential issues, enabling preventative maintenance and minimising downtime. This predictive capability enhances overall reliability and ensures continuous and smooth port operations. Additionally, security is significantly bolstered in smart ports through advanced technologies. Real-time monitoring, predictive analytics and robust security systems work in tandem to identify and mitigate potential threats, ensuring a secure environment for cargo and vessels. This heightened security contributes to the overall resilience of the port infrastructure.


Sustainability is a major issue for ports globally with ships contributing to around 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, but this could rise with the decline of industry in the Western world and rise in population. The integration of eco-friendly practices, such as the use of renewable energy sources and electric-powered equipment, contributes to a greener and more sustainable port ecosystem. These eco-friendly practices would be introduced with smart ports. By monitoring and adhering to international environmental standards, smart ports exemplify responsible and conscientious contributions to global sustainability efforts.


Smart ports represent paradigm shift in an industry that has remained close to its roots for hundreds of years. Such significant developments whilst offering numerous benefits and a leap into the 21st century, also pose challenges and potential drawbacks. For example, the integration of complex technologies introduces a new set of cybersecurity risks. Smart ports could become vulnerable to cyber threats such as hacking and data breaches that could compromise sensitive information and disrupt port operations. Safeguarding against these threats requires continuous investment in cybersecurity measures which could constitute significant upfront costs and staff training.


When it comes to staff, the implementation of smart ports poses another challenge. The shipping sector is a major global employer. For example, 500,000 people are working in the Netherlands due to the Port of Rotterdam alone. The implementation of smart ports will not necessarily decrease the number of jobs available in ports, but it may impact certain job roles, as jobs that were traditionally done by humans will become automated. This will cause job displacement as humans working in certain areas will be required to re-train and re-specialise. The quality of workers needed will increase hence, if ports do not try to help existing staff through the re-training process, a significant number of low skilled workers will face unemployment. The THEMIS 5.0 project could play a vital role in the re-training of port staff by increasing transparency and therefore improving trust in hybrid decisions made using AI systems, paying particular attention to human user decision support needs and moral values.

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