Everyone in the port industry is concerned about the recent trade dispute between the United States and China, especially its impact on the world maritime community. What I fear most is such escalating disputes could derail economic recovery, reshape global maritime trade patterns, and dampen the future course.
Regardless of what happens politically and economically, port authorities and terminal managers across the world have been tackling various issues to realize a smooth and efficient flow of cargo and ships in close cooperation with all stakeholders of the entire supply chain. In doing so, they have used a number of digital tools and technology solutions to assist them, for instance, terminal operating systems, automated cargo handling, and, most recently, Blockchain, all of which aim to simplify and standardize operational procedures and documentation toward achieving a speedy, cost-efficient, flexible, and transparent operation.
One of our technical committees is now looking into autonomous ships and their impact on port infrastructure. A final report will be presented to the IAPH Guangzhou Conference in May 2019. When autonomously driven ships and port vehicles get regulatory approval, they should greatly contribute to solving issues such as port labor shortages, performance, and safety.
In addition to efficiency and productivity, we must carefully consider such other critical factors as the environment and sustainability. In March 2018, IAPH launched the “World Ports Sustainability Program” to demonstrate global leadership of ports in contributing to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as defined by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Paris Agreement (December 2015). Under this environment initiative, we are assisting ports and terminals worldwide to address challenges posed by climate change through Onshore Power Supply, “Environmental Ship Index,” LNG bunkering, etc.