S Africa needs smarter ports

MARCEL BRUYNS Having access to an efficient port helps accelerate the transport of shipments in and out of a country, facilitating a profitable trading environment

TRADE SMART If South Africa fails to adopt smart technologies, such as big data and the Internet of Things, the country could see less trade taking place at its ports

17th February 2023

By: Tracy Hancock

Creamer Media Contributing Editor


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For South Africa’s eight ports to keep up with the changes in global shipping, and safeguard trade that is vital to the economy, it is extremely important that Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies be embraced to enable smart ports, says network technology company Axis Communications Africa sales manager Marcel Bruyns.

“All industries are looking for smarter, more efficient and competitive ways to do business. Global organisations prefer to invest in and partner with corporations and countries where their investments will be most effective. Having access to an efficient port helps accelerate the transport of shipments in and out of a country, facilitating a profitable trading environment.”

Therefore, if South Africa fails to adopt smart technologies, such as big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), the country could see less trade taking place at its ports, which will impact negatively on the country’s already struggling economy.

“Global organisations could decide to invest in other countries that are more willing to improve their critical infrastructure. The economic impact of not maintaining a port, especially when it is so valuable to the economy, is hugely detrimental,” warns Bruyns.

As container shipping remains an important part of sustaining the local economy, the Port of Durban, the country’s main container port, must keep up with global trends or it will be left behind and seen as an inferior port, he says.

“The manner in which shipping is done globally is changing significantly. Vessels are becoming larger, more advanced, and more complicated, and if we are not able to manage these vessels at our ports, they simply will not come.”

Digitalisation is fast becoming the new way of working. The world is moving away from outdated paper-based methods to create better efficiencies to address the challenges associated with these large vessels, states Bruyns.

For instance, IoT devices can provide insights into many areas of a port through water level monitoring, weather data, traffic management or people movement.

“Considering these factors, the proposed development of the new Boegoebaai port, in the Northern Cape, is well placed, as it is located in proximity to natural resources and agricultural areas. Having a smart port aiding sectors like these could boost South Africa’s economy by offering trade opportunities to other countries,” highlights Bruyns.

Advancements Noted, But Limited

The technology employed at the country’s ports, however, has improved over the years, with many security and operations-focused technologies introduced.

“Vehicle tracking using licence plate recognition and container tracking software have improved operations, while cameras have helped reduce crime at local ports. “However, there are always new and innovative technologies that can help improve the operational, safety, and security aspects of South Africa’s ports,” advises Bruyns.

Organised crime is a major issue globally. Therefore, the advancement of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and how data is captured from smart devices will help apprehend criminals and improve other aspects of port operations.

“The private sector plays a large role in the advancement of technology. Many public organisations cannot keep up with these advancements, particularly in understanding how to use them to their greatest potential.

“Globally, smart city and smart port transformations occur when the private sector is involved. “As technology improves, the private sector invests, as it sees the long-term benefits of using technology to aid daily operations,” explains Bruyns.

Last year’s announcement of Transnet’s R16.1-billion seven-year capital investment programme, which targets the Mossel Bay, Saldanha and Cape Town ports, is encouraging, he adds.

“While most of the proposed spending is structural and physical, some of it will also be allocated to perimeter (security) and automation (capacity and efficiency). Technology constantly improves, and the use of 5G and fibre networks, along with IoT devices, will help feed valuable information back to the port authority.”


Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features




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