Harboring hackathons to break digital barriers to entry and improve trade and mobility

LA and Antwerp port authorities to gather start-ups and disruptors at a Hakathon in October. The aim? To innovate and offer new ways for port communities to share data to improve supply chain efficiency.

At the World Maritime Day last year IMO Secretary Kitack Lim encouraged members to use innovative technology as a way of better “connecting ships, ports and people”. At the IMO special meeting for world ports in London on 11th June, digitisation dominated the agenda.

The IMO FAL Convention introducing mandatory requirements for electronic exchange of information on cargo, crew and passengers is scheduled for 2019. Many of the discussions centred on how to leverage new technologies positively to achieve and reach beyond that aim.

“As ‘trusted and honest brokers’ port authorities are being increasingly relied upon by cargo owners, shipping lines, and modal operators to perform the function of coordinators and communicators in support of supply chain optimisation.”International Association of Ports and Harbors President Santiago Garcia-Milà noted in his keynote speech.

He noted that a changing economic and ecological landscape now faced the maritime sector. These include economic shocks impacting trade volumes and challenges posed by mega vessels. Also the emergence of disruptive technologies and more stringent environmental standards have changed the rules of engagement. This has led to initiatives to create interconnected “smart ports” of the future.

Using a Hackathon to lower barriers

Several port authorities including Los Angeles and Hamburg have been actively engaging with each other over the last two years. Their aim: to realize their vision of a smart, interconnected and digital world port system. One such initiative later this year in October will involve a Hackathon in LA and Antwerp. Several teams of creative ‘hackers’ from established organisations and start-ups alike will simultaneously meet for three days and two nights to focus on six port-related challenges. These include mobility, sharing of data between ports, safety and security, process and document flow, sustainable energy provision and education. The idea involves co-creating ideas and potential projects which could benefit the port community . The Port of Antwerp Authority is actively promoting the initiative.

IAPH Managing Director Patrick Verhoeven acknowledged that the innovation generated by the Hakathon needed to be shared amongst all ports.

“Through the World Ports Sustainability Program that the IAPH launched in the presence of the Secretary General last March, we want to stimulate innovators such as ChainPort and at the same time ensure that these innovations find their way to the global port community”