Smooth sailing ahead in port security?

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Neil Dalus, EMEA Risk Assessment Manager, TT Club reviews the impact of innovative technologies such as AI and IoT on cargo handling and port security operations.

While much attention is paid to technological advancement and its impact on the security and risk profiles of urban centres of populations, the world’s ports, through which some 90% of global trade moves, must also be considered.

Over 50% of the world’s population live in cities (The World Bank) – generating over 80% of the global GDP – and this urban population is predicted to grow to 70% of people globally living in urbanised areas by 2050.

This staggering growth is being met by the development of smart cities, widely seen as the future of urban living.

Based on the use of emerging technologies, smart cities aim to connect aspects of life through 5G and IoT, to improve quality of life in a sustainable manner for the growing population.

This is accomplished through the efficient use of physical resources.

What are smart ports?

As ports are both the facilitators and pinch-points for the majority of trade that supplies urban communities and helps the development of smart cities, they are integral to the overall success of smart cities.

Ports are economic drivers for cities; the relationship between ports and connected cities is becoming increasingly direct and intertwined.

A smart port, much like its counterpart, a smart city, uses automation and innovative technologies including AI, big data, IoT and blockchain to improve its performance.

Although the industries of ports and shipping are often regarded as conservative and resistant to change, this image is fast-changing.

There are new technologies, systems and solutions emerging that will alter this perception in the coming years, leading the entire sector to a brighter, more connected future.

The need to evolve and become “smart” is even more paramount today with the changing demands of global trade: Container ships are getting bigger; goods are moving faster; geopolitical issues are creating new challenges for ports all around the world.

So, many of the benefits smart cities have achieved by adopting IoT technology are, by extension, of great benefit to port management.

Combatting crime

Opportunity brings with it new risks in terms of cybersecurity, through an increase in the potential access points to the valuable data that is being collected through IoT technology.

These forces increased focus and resource into the development of measures to secure the data and prevent unauthorised access.

Cyber-criminals often exploit the ‘people factor’ through the use of common hacking tool kits readily available in the public domain.

Consequently, an ongoing mandatory awareness program should be implemented for the workforce to explain the risk from cybersecurity events and set up preventive measures.

It is important to establish an appropriate cybersecurity incident response team along with an assigned contact point.

Further to this, it should be recognised that many elements of operations are likely to be outsourced to third party vendors; it remains the responsibility of the company to ensure sufficient due diligence has been taken to avoid a cyber-incident resulting from the action or inaction of third parties.

For example, ensuring information security management standards such as ISO 27001 are complied with by the third party can reduce the risk substantially.

To tackle cybersecurity incidents in an effective and consistent manner, it is essential to develop a strategic approach and response process.

The volume of cargo moving through ports and onto their final destinations is staggering and is likely to grow with the predicted increase in the population.

Unfortunately, this makes it a target for criminal exploitation, for instance, through the trade of illicit commodities and theft of cargo.

Therefore, the adoption of smart technologies such as IoT and blockchain within ports has the ability to increase the ‘visibility’ of the cargo throughout the supply chain.

This visibility can not only improve efficiency, it can improve security through transparency of the process.

Increasing the transparency of cargo flow, providing real time information, can reduce the opportunity time window for criminal activity.

Likewise, the digital fingerprint that is left through the use of blockchain provides fewer hiding places for criminals operating in the margins of our industry.  

Safety and security

Networked machinery such as cranes and reach stackers can be made safer.

Machines that communicate with each other make collisions much less likely to occur.

Sensors on the machines would also reduce the risk of collisions with people, infrastructure and non-networked machines.

Intelligent transportation systems that use data are able to manage traffic flow, reduce congestion and movements around the port.

This applies equally to port machinery and also to visiting drivers collecting containers.

Energy-efficient and connected buildings with features like automated heating/cooling and lighting systems are able to reduce energy consumption and improve the efficiency of port operations.

Many operations carry on 24/7 but not all areas will be in use constantly.

Technologies for water distribution, leak detection and water quality monitoring reduce waste and also limit environmental impact.

Smart waste bins and collection systems can help to optimise waste disposal and recycling.

Smart locks and keys are an increasingly important component of physical security.

Facility access can now be granted or removed remotely in an instant to employees, visitors and contractors.

Equally as important is the access granted to heavy machinery such as cranes and reach stackers.

The use of smart locks also enables port administrators to monitor record access, creating an important data path that can be used in the event of a security breach.

In addition to reducing risk, there are efficiency gains achievable by utilising IoT technologies in the port environment.

Smart contracts in a blockchain automated process, such as customs clearance and payments should reduce manual paperwork and associated delays.

Blockchain, combined with AI capabilities, enables end-to-end visibility in the supply chain, allowing port authorities and logistics providers to optimise cargo routing and reduce congestion.

Networked containers, tagged and geofenced, can be organised in such a way that the number of movements needed to access each container is minimised with respect to optimised collection schedules.

Looking ahead

The drivers for the development of smart cities and their integration with associated smart ports are obvious.

Likewise, they do have the potential to tighten the net on the exploitation of the supply chain for illicit purposes.

However, this is a complicated ecosystem that requires multi-stakeholder engagement in order to extract the maximum benefit as our cities evolve with this technology.

The development of smart ports will face the challenge of cyber-crime.

However, the benefit that this evolution brings is increased efficiency in facilitating trade, in a safer and more seamless way.

Such advances have the potential to help meet the needs of our urban population both now and into the future and will drive ever more sophisticated means of providing security of supply. 

1-ISJ- Smooth sailing ahead in port security?
Neil Dalus, EMEA Risk Assessment Manager, TT Club
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