According to the port of Gothenburg in Sweden, the coronavirus outbreak could accelerate digitalisation in what is an otherwise conservative shipping industry.

Widespread reluctance in many countries to allow crews to go ashore is matched by the reluctance among ships’ crews to receive visitors on board, said the port. As a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, the majority of ports throughout the world have been forced to re-examine their routines. Greater use of digital tools has been part of the solution in an effort to maintain an efficient workflow.

Most of the initiatives to increase automation and digitisation that have been introduced at the port of Gothenburg have proven to be particularly constructive during the pandemic.

For instance, the digital system Permesso, which was introduced in 2019, has resulted in a significant reduction in administration and face-to-face contact when issuing work permits to contractors. The automatic gates for trucks introduced by APM Terminals at the container terminal is another example of an operating procedure that has reduced the need for physical interaction.

Malin Collin, deputy ceo at the Gothenburg Port Authority, is responsible for the digitalisation process. She states that extensive digital changes at the port will be introduced in the near future and could make a substantial difference.

According to Collin, it is largely a question of improving efficiency, freight flows and traffic movements to and from the port. “This is one of the most critical issues and we have dedicated resources to finding a solution. We are currently examining how artificial intelligence can make use of historical data… to improve planning through data-driven decisions, identifying trends, and predicting events. By doing so we can create a platform for more efficient freight flows and transport movements on land and at sea.”

She stated that enhanced digitalisation would benefit everyone. Nevertheless, if it is to produce the desired outcome, more people in the transport chain need to link into common systems and share information with each other.

“My impression is that the level of acceptance is rising, particularly now we are faced with the corona crisis. But someone needs to take the initiative, act as a driving force, and offer effective alternatives that more people want to adopt.”