Port of Hamburg – Virtual Reality for model-based port infrastructure management

The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) operates the port management for the largest seaport in Germany and is therefore responsible for all planning, construction and operational processes of the port infrastructure. With its “smartPort” philosophy, the HPA has been promoting the use of innovative digital future technologies for several years in order to manage the port infrastructure more efficiently and intelligently.

As part of this initiative, the HPA developed a vision for the port management of the future in the form of a virtual port world with the advisory support of the State Enterprise Geoinformation and Surveying (LGV) and the universities of Hamburg. In this VR (Virtual Reality) port model, all technical data of the entire port area should be integrated, visualized and coordinated in real time. It is thus possible for real-time coordination of ship movements in the port area to superimpose the AIS ship location data with the current water depth model or to evaluate different planning variants of digital building models in the realistic context of the harbor environment.

In order to meet the high demands on the data processing of the VR technologies, powerful processors of a game engine are used for this purpose. A central application has been implemented as part of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) method, which the HPA has been gradually implementing in its construction project portfolio since 2017. In it, the HPA has integrated various digital building models (BIM models) into the VR port model in order to assess their interplay with the existing infrastructure as well as perform virtual construction surveys and design reviews. The goal is to create a similar understanding between the planning participants and, above all, non-specialist stakeholders through the 3D visualization and thus identify planning conflicts at an early stage.

The application quickly revealed the great potential of VR technology for the increasingly important public participation in the context of complex planning processes of public large-scale projects. The positive echo of this unique project was honored with the winning of the eGovernment competition under the auspices of the German Federal Chancellery, in the category “Best Infrastructure Project”, in 2018.