Drones, artificial intelligence (AI), and unmanned sea vessels will be used in North East ports in an effort to boost trade and improve the economy.
Five ports from across the region have banded together to form the Smart Port North East Testbed, which aims to find out how satellite-based technology and digital programmes can solve problems faced by the businesses.
The test bed hopes that using technologies such as AI, drones, and data analytics will help the ports become more ‘intelligent’ by increasing efficiency, tracking cargo, reducing costs, improving security and protect the environment.
The Port of Tyne, Port of Sunderland, Teesport, Port of Berwick and the Port of Blyth have all signed up to the new project. It is the first initiative of the Situational Awareness Information National Technology Service (SAINTS), which was recently launched by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence.
Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “Satellites have been providing services for the maritime economy for many years, with advanced technology for navigation and communications the norm in the sector. But as international trade continues to grow unabated, this initiative from SAINTS is an exciting new opportunity for UK companies to make significant technological advances for ports, and show what is possible from a combination of satellite data, terrestrial measurements and AI.
“By developing this collaboration between innovative companies and the ports themselves, the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence offers the hope of long-term business growth in the North East and with it, jobs in a highly skilled and growing sector.”
SAINTS brings together experts from business, universities and the public sector to use AI to analyse data and come up with solutions for a range of challenges affecting the country.
The North East was found to be an ideal location for the test bed as its local economy is strongly tied to its ports.
During the project Port of Berwick will look at how new technology can be used to increase collaboration between the port and its hinterland, and grow the economy by increasing tourism.
As Port of Blyth is home to EDF’s Blyth Offshore Demonstrator Wind Farm, it will focus on how technology can help service the renewable and green energy sectors.
Meanwhile, Port of Sunderland will look to improve customer service and efficiencies within its freight business, while Teesport will attempt to improve its logistics and warehousing processes.
Port of Tyne will work with Smart Port Rotterdam on operational efficiency initiatives across the North Sea. This is because the only passenger ferry service from the North East to mainland Europe sails from Port of Tyne.
Catherine Johns, innovation director at Business Durham, said: “Ports play a vital role in the regional and national economy, providing trading gateways to the rest of the world, with a massive impact on local supply chains and communities.
“The launch of SAINTS illustrates the important role the region’s fast-growing satellite and space sector can play in finding solutions to local issues and developing them to solve global problems in a sustainable way. The test bed provides an opportunity to pool the knowledge built up in one of our longest established industries with that of one of our newest.”