World port leaders highlight benefits of digitalization in times of crisis
PORT leaders from around the world who gathered at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development highlighted the role of technology in protecting ports against difficult global events.
The UNCTAD TrainForTrade Port Management Week was held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain last month. It provided a platform for 100 port leaders to discuss building port resilience to current and future crises.
Aurelio Martínez, president of the Spanish Port Authority of Valencia, said crises such as the pandemic have reminded society of the importance of port logistics for the safety and security of global well-being.
“More than ever, and given the growing risks from evolving climate change, ports need to become key resilient partners for supply chain managers,” he said.
Port representatives discussed how the consequences of climate change will affect ports around the world, affecting the businesses and people who depend on them.
For example, in the Philippines, a severe storm that damages a port serving one of the country’s 7,000 islands can cut off the lifeline of the local population for days or weeks.
“Disaster response and management plans should be included in business continuity plans, and these plans should be regularly updated,” said Ports Authority of the Philippines Deputy Chief Executive Hector Miole.
“Traditionally, we planned for the next 50 years. But in the changing environment, we need to have shorter planning timelines – maybe only 10 or 20 years,” he said.
Miole said reliable forecasting systems can help port authorities manage severe storms by enabling them to plan for disasters and design strategies to maintain operations.
According to UNCTAD, port managers have agreed that advances in digitalization and cybersecurity are key to improving the resilience of ports.
He said digital technologies allow ports to minimize human interactions while remaining operational during pandemic situations.
“COVID-19 has shown us the importance of having achieved at least some level of digitalization,” said Ghana Ports Authority Chief Executive Michael Luguje.
“Otherwise many ports would have been closed and the economy would have suffered even more.”
While the increasing use of digital technologies has improved shipping processes and port resilience to COVID-19, port leaders have also identified risks.
For example, a cyberattack can interrupt operations and inflict financial losses on port actors and economic damage on local businesses and populations.
To reduce the risks associated with digitalization, participating port managers stated that all transport actors interacting with a port should be integrated into the port’s digital system.
Joseph Hiney, chairman of Drogheda Port Company in Ireland, said that when ports provide infrastructure and services to ships, the port is responsible for potential risks.
“This responsibility cannot be outsourced,” he said. “The same should be true with digital risk management.”
Since its inception in 1996, UNCTAD’s TrainForTrade program has targeted key topics around port sustainability and resilience, such as climate change adaptation, digitalization, decarbonization and worker health and safety. .