A recent article for the Smart Cities Council by Doug Peeples, a Portland, Oregon-based writer, highlights how technology is helping seaports manage the numerous issues that arise with growth. According to the article, “the volume of goods moved by ship grew from roughly 3.3 billion metric tons in 1985 to 9.6 billion in 2013,” making it clear that for many major coastal cities in the United States, ports will continue to be a vital piece of their local economies. As these ports grow in the volume of goods that pass through them, the challenges the ports face each day related to managing day-to-day operations and growth efficiently and safely become more and more complex and vendors are coming up with the solutions that the ports need to address these issues with “smart” technologies.

Siemens, an associate partner of the Smart Cities Council who has been contracted by a number of ports in the U.S. to help them keep up with the growth in volume of products needing to be shipped is just one example of a company who is helping city governments address capacity issues with technologies.

Here are 3 of the technologies highlighted in the article that can help to provide an idea of how city ports are solving growth and operations problems with smart technologies:

1) Managing Port Traffic with Smart Roadways

Siemens, along with other companies, helped to develop an eHighway between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California. The system, which uses electrified overhead lines to deliver clean and efficient power to incoming trucks also “helps manage traffic and features routes for electric and hybrid test trucks – which improves air quality in the region through much reduced vehicle emissions.”

2) Intelligent Tracking and Parking for Trucks

The number of semi-trucks carrying cargo to the ports grows in direct relation to the growth in the number of supplies that are being shipped. One solution that helps ports direct this noted increase in traffic is called the Integrated Truck Guidance system, or ITG. Using a series of cameras placed on the roads that lead up to the port (for a distance of around 12.5 miles) the system can “record the license plates of approaching trucks long before they reach the terminals.” The system then allocates the incoming truck an open spot to park in before they even arrive at the terminal or directs the truck to an overflow parking area if no spots are available. One port that has found success using the ITG system is the Port of Duisburg, in Germany, the world’s largest river port that handles more than 120 million metric tons of goods each year and that number is continuing to rise.

3) Remote Control Technology for Port Cranes

Growth in port activity also means rising safety concerns for port workers. As a result, remote control technology may be the next big “smart” safety feature for ensuring the safety of gantry crane operators, the type of crane that is designed to lift containers to and from cargo ships. According to Carsten Köhler, the head of sales for Siemens Process Industries and Drives, “The rapid accelerations in the crane cabins expose operators to huge physical stresses… [with the system] operators will be able to control container gantry cranes quickly and safely from a separate control room using a joystick and monitor.”

Additionally, remote control technology for gantry cranes will help to reduce the amount of time it takes to load and unload containers and reduce energy demand. These systems even have cameras that are designed to detect and avoid container collisions.

Ports, Just One Area Where Technology Can Solve City Problems

Solving the issues that arise in result of port shipping growth is just one area of city government where technology not only helps to solve an issue overall, but also does so in cost efficient and effective manner.

To view more examples of how “smart” technologies are helping cities solve complex problems, view Onvia’s recent presentation to the Smart Cities Council and our Smart Cities: How Cities are Investing to Enhance Livability whitepaper. Learn more about the fundamentals of the smart city sector on the Smart Cities Council website.