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Digital innovations to spur transformation of maritime and logistics sectors

Article - November 14, 2018

Singapore is at the forefront of digital technologies and infrastructure in the shipping industry that will help to improve efficiency and productivity.


Since its founding in the 19th century, Singapore has been one of the major maritime trade hubs in Asia and in the past 50 years the city-state has become one of the most important globally as the largest transhipment hub in the world.

A number of factors have contributed to this success: its location on the sea routes linking Europe, Africa and the Middle East to Asia; the low-tax, business-friendly government policies; almost zero corruption and its well-educated work force.

Another contributing component is the ability by the government and the local maritime services industry to always plan ahead, ensuring that Singapore will be at the forefront of sector infrastructure and technology.

In a bid to assure that outcome, the International Maritime Center (IMC) 2030 initiative was set up, with public and private participation, so as to drive the local sector’s next phase of growth, and to propel  Singapore to become the leading overall global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent.

The IMC’s ultimate aim is to increase the industry’s value add by $3.2 billion and create more than 5,000 jobs by 2025.

John Ng, the managing director of Singapore-based global ship-broking and maritime consultancy company Eastport Maritime, praises the initiative.

“Innovation will be a key focus and maritime companies are encouraged and supported to look into developing future capabilities and solutions that build on technologies such as automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence.”

One of the major players in this ambitious embrace of technology is home-grown maritime port giant PSA International which operates more than 40 port terminals worldwide from Argentina to Saudi Arabia, and from Belgium to Japan.

“We as Singapore need to see the future first, prepare ourselves ahead, implement those things which will enable us to create value,” says PSA International Group Chief Executive Officer, Tan Chong Meng.

“This will permit us to be a pace setter within ASEAN, both as a city and an economy meaning maritime, industrial and financial,” he adds, highlighting digitalization, improved transparency, automation and other measures to transform Singapore into a leader in maritime technology.

A PSA subsidiary is Crimson Logic, the perfect fit for the parent company’s global operations, with its wide experience in easing trade and cross-border regulatory transactions and providing digital support to a fully integrated global supply chain.

“CrimsonLogic interacts with the government, the cargo owner, third-party logistics, banking and all of that to become a real trade enabler,” the executive explains.

With CrimsonLogic, PSA has also developed Calista, a digital platform which enables the effective cross-integration of physical, regulatory and financial processes, to help shippers and logistics service providers better coordinate cargo logistics.

The digital platform has already linked up to more than 4,000 parties with tremendous growth potential particularly in Asia. Calista will also be connected to other platforms and partners to enable customers to orchestrate their supply chain more seamlessly, smartly and safely.

Mr. Tan argues that instead of the sector being composed of different role players, i.e. shipper, shipping lines and ports, it should become a community of interconnected, independent shareholders capitalizing on digital capabilities to streamline efficiency. And innovations such as Calista could help to make that happen.


AGVs at Tuas mega-port

Another exciting innovation is the development of automated guided vehicles, or AGVs, battery-powered, driverless vehicles, dozens of which are shifting containers under a trial program at PSA’s Pasir Panjang terminal.

There are plans for more AGVs to be used in the first phase of the multi-billion-dollar Tuas mega-port which is expected to open in 2021, replacing the city-state’s existing terminals, including the newly-expanded Pasir Panjang eventually.

“There are so many possibilities with Tuas,” adds Mr. Tan. “Our current ports don’t have a connected industry park where manufacturers can easily reach the ships. But at the new Tuas facility with manufacturers nearby and with virtual gates and IoT-enabled security, AGVs can potentially go to the client to pick up cargo, then move directly to the ships.”

With its billion-dollar, state-of-the-art ports, and a cooperative public-private effort, Singapore is cementing its place as a maritime and logistics powerhouse in the region and the world. “Singapore,” Mr. Tan says, “is a catalyst of growth. And when there is more growth, there is more benefit for all.”