CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 05, 2019
Forward Thinking

Maritime port operators see great promise in artificial intelligence

AI could improve operational consistencies and enhance equipment utilization, Navis survey shows.

Global container terminals are expected to embrace automated decision making powered by artificial intelligence (AI) as they pursue ways to improve operational consistencies and enhance equipment utilization, a new survey shows.

The findings indicate that container terminals, regardless of their AI maturity, are increasingly aware of the possibilities of automated decision-making, according to supply chain technology provider Navis LLC. The Oakland, California-based firm said its TechValidate customer survey included responses from nearly 60 Navis customers, representing a cross-section of container terminals around the world using various degrees of automation.

In addition to the 86% who cited operational consistency and equipment utilization as the most important benefits of automated decision-making, port operators also named other goals. AI-powered systems could enable teams to work smarter and faster (60%), improve safety (47%), allow better management of billable events (33%), and improve environmental compliance (12%), the survey showed.

The specific types of decisions that could be automated with the help of AI include container handling equipment (CHE) assignments (81%), decking (81%), action recommendations (69%), gate volume predictions (59%), and vessel stowage (52%), respondents said. Applying AI to those tasks could increase terminal productivity by as much as five-to-six moves per hour, more than one third (39%) of respondents said.

Despite its potential promise, AI-driven automated decision-making is still in the earliest stages of deployment within the industry. No one in the survey reported deploying a "high level" of AI within their operations, just 11% noted having deployed "some" AI into terminal operations, and the greatest portion—56%—said they were still in learning or piloting phases.

Still Navis concluded that the statistics signal growing confidence in the use of innovative technologies to improve terminal efficiencies and gain competitive advantages. "Just a few short years ago only a handful of our customers were even open to the idea of automation or other disruptive technologies designed to make the container terminal smarter, safer and more sustainable," Andy Barrons, chief strategy officer at Navis, said in a release. "The survey demonstrates just how far the industry has come - and will continue to go - in harnessing technology in the right ways to automate decision making within terminals."

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