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‘Smart ships need smart ports’

Smart ships need smart ports. That’s what Fabio Ballini, an assistant professor at World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, often says. With the climate crisis encouraging the world to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, more and more attention is shifting towards oceans. Largely unexplored natural resources still remain untapped beneath the seabed ― in potentially gargantuan volumes. With over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, the amount of international trade occurring via ships exceeds that of trucks and planes.

The global freight ecosystem continues pushing shipyards to evolve and meet demands for smarter and more energy-efficient ships that burn less fossil fuel and generate less pollution.

Visiting Busan for 2022 Korea Maritime Week and International Maritime High-Level Discussion hosted by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries from Sept. 21 to 23, the Italian maritime economist specializing in maritime energy management got a chance to explore Busan Port, Korea’s biggest port in the country’s southeast. While praising the port’s modernized features, Ballini argued that it should keep evolving further alongside other more advanced ports around the world to act as one of the key international hubs.

“Busan Port has a very advanced strategy, with an environmental department to deal with emergency technology solutions,” Ballini said in an interview with The Korea Times. “One of the important steps for a port is to have a dedicated department to handle environmental energy issues and decide which kinds of technology to put in place. Busan Port has also invested a lot in digitizing ships, port interfaces and cargos. I was also amazed at the port’s ability to forecast container movements, which makes it one of the top container ports in the world.”

Ballini, who commutes to Malmo from his residence in Copenhagen, Denmark ― a 40-minute ride across Oresund Bridge ― said Busan Port could be one of the nodes along a “green shipping corridor,” a network of global ports that are geared towards greener operations with net-zero emissions. How to do that? The expert said the port should first take into account the needs of various stakeholders in decision-making regarding its operation.

“It first requires commitment from different stakeholders, either public or private,” Ballini said. “It also needs a platform where all these actors can exchange different opinions and expectations. That will help it become part of this green shipping corridor linking different ports in the world and decarbonizing the shipping sector.”
He said advanced ports in Europe are a model for Busan. For example, more and more European ports in recent decades have become “landlord ports,” with services leased to private operators. This kind of ecosystem obligates the port to take into account the voices of all stakeholders in its operations.

“Landlord port’s decisions involve more and more stakeholders, like municipalities and different industries. So shareholders of a single port can be quite a mix,” Ballini said. “For a port to push its energy strategy, it is better to involve its stakeholders from the beginning to generate an outcome that is shared and appreciated by all the stakeholders.”

Increasingly, advanced ports around the world also place the environment as one of their top policy priorities. “When a government sets a target of decarbonizing the shipping sector or other climate change-related goals as a national policy, ports are subject to such policies’ direct or indirect effects,” Ballini said. “These ports have now formed a European sea port organization to represent voices of port operators and reflect them to regulatory or industrial bodies. One of the best tools for ports is to come altogether.”

There apparenftly exists a gap between ports of developed and developing countries in terms of technological innovation. Ballini said this gap should be overcome to bring all ports together. “For some ports, innovation technology may not be their priority, causing them to fall behind,” Ballini said. “But one of the tendencies among ports now is to have LNG bunkering for ships (a shipyard practice of providing liquefied natural gas [LNG) to ships for their own consumption). Of course, ports need to accommodate these rising needs. So, different ports are required to come together in terms of environmental and energy policies.”

More than 5,600 students from 171 countries graduated from World Maritime University in 2021. The school’s main aim is building capacity for its students. Ballini expects such education will ultimately reduce the gap between different ports in terms of decarbonizing the shipping sector and maritime energy specialization. As a port, there is also the complexity of needing to be part of global supply chains and dealing with different stakeholders. “I always said to my students, ‘You cannot build in one day an environmental energy strategy but you need a process,’” Ballini said. “One of the most effective tools is to share the best practices. That will help ports in developing countries overcome their own barriers. Countries with advanced ports should also provide training activities, like Busan’s Korea Maritime Week.”

There are several standards that define an advanced port these days, according to Ballini. They include visualization, cybersecurity, energy and environmental management systems and mapping. European sea port organization has also developed a so-called “eco port label,” which requires ports to share with each other information about how much energy they consume. The data can be created and shared through a port environmental review system, which allows ports to review their performance.

Ballini said those standards apply differently to different ports because each of them has different priorities. But at the bottom line, all ports must pull themselves together to reduce their functional gaps and start working closely with each other to become more efficient and eco-friendly, according to his proactive view on the overall global shipping industry.
Source: Korea Times

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