During the latter years, the notion of smartness has reached the maritime industry (for example, smart containers, smart supply chains, and smart ports) as an implementation of intelligent decision-making empowered by digitalisation. However, the combination of poor connectivity between ports and limited or no sharing of data about delayed arrivals between the carriers involved perpetuates the culture of first-come, first-served and a consequently low level of predictability for maritime transport. As 70% of all sea voyages are short sea shipping, there is a need for the local logistics networks to share data on progress and disruptions with other related local networks involved in the transportation of goods.
In the emerging discourse of maritime informatics, standardised digital data sharing is seen as a foundational enabler for linking together the different actors of the self-organised ecosystem for more coordinated and synchronised operations. Historically, the practice of what happens at sea has been considered separate from what happens in ports. Today, numerous initiatives are being taken to integrate those two views. It has become apparent that ports need to share data with each other and improve the data exchange ship-to-shore.
The nature of a port as a multidimensional hub
An increasing number of ports in the world are now putting emphasis on developing complementary capabilities to become multi-dimensional hubs. As a result, ports are becoming transport nodes in the multi-modal chain by providing services to the different modes of transport involved in the door-to-door carriage of goods. This trend, on one side, can include contributing to the green conversion of the transport ecosystem by providing services for fossil-free energy distribution. On the other side, it can bring developments towards ports establishing themselves as information nodes by becoming an information provider and not just an information consumer.
Ports as network of networks
Ports are thus becoming nodes in a larger network. Initiatives are underway that connect ports with each other in network of network structures. Examples include:
- The International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) ensuring that port community systems (PCS) have standardised ways of exchanging data in trusted networks regardless of the system provider /manufacturers.
- Initiatives including The International PortCDM Council (IPCDMC), DCSA Just-in-Time Port Call and Port Call Optimisation emphasising standardised data exchange enabling the exchange of timestamp data for coordinated and synchronised port calls.
- DataPorts, a European funded project for a Data Platform for the Connection of Cognitive Ports in which transportation and logistics companies around a seaport will be able to manage data like any other company asset, thereby creating a basis to enable the use of novel artificial intelligence and cognitive tools to the port community.
- UN/CEFACT Smart container proposals provide a standard container status message and the data required for geofencing to enable the creation of efficient and collaborative relocation plans. For example, Smart Containers can provide real-time status of all empty containers available at a given geographical zone, thereby maximising their quick reuse, resulting in productivity increases and a reduction in global environmental impact.
- The UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Supply Chain Track & Trace project provides multimodal track-and-trace information.
- The Digital Transport Logistic Forum (DTLF) and its validation project FEDeRATED, take the approach that transport nodes need to provide data for supply chain visibility.
The maritime supply chain clients are increasingly demanding that operations are pursued more predictably, and that track and trace solutions are available. Digital data sharing has also been identified as key to responding to humanitarian and global concerns. The development of a network of smart ports would lead to a more-efficient global network of shipping throughput as the systems become more homogenous, leading to more efficiency on a global scale.
The traditional model of the shipping industry can be viewed as a port-to-port operation. What is now being demanded is a door-to-door operation, where the smart port concept can establish the port as a critical hub in the transportation chain. The key to achieving this is to establish a standardised data sharing environment that enables reliable and timely access to crucial data for all those in the transportation chain that need to know.
 Becha H., Lind M., Simha A., Bottin F. (2020) Smart ports: On the move to becoming global logistics information exchange hubs, Smart Maritime Network, 20/4-2020 (https://smartmaritimenetwork.com/2020/04/20/smart-ports-on-the-move-to-b...)
 Michaelides M., Lind M., Green L., Askvik J., Siokouros Z. (2021), Decision Support in Short Sea Shipping, in M. Lind, M. Michaelides, R. Ward, R. T. Watson (Ed.), Maritime informatics. Heidelberg: Springer (https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030508913)
 Lind M., Watson R., Hoffmann J., Ward R., Michaelides M. (2020) Maritime Informatics: an emerging discipline for a digitally connected efficient, sustainable and resilient industry, Article No. 59 [UNCTAD Transport and Trade Facilitation Newsletter N°87 - Third Quarter 2020] (https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2456)
 Lind M., Haraldson S., Carson-Jackson J., Gardeichik J., Singh S., Zuesongdham P., Morton R., Pettersson S., Pernia O., Larsen S.E. (2021) Ports as multidimensional hubs, in M. Lind, M. Michaelides, R. Ward, R. T. Watson (Eds.) Maritime informatics: Additional Perspectives and Applications. Forthcoming, Heidelberg: Springer
 Lind M., Pettersson S., Karlsson J., Steijaert B., Hermansson P., Haraldson S., Axell M., Zerem A. (2020) Sustainable Ports as Energy Hubs, The Maritime Executive, 27/11-2020 (https://www.maritime-executive.com/editorials/sustainable-ports-as-energ...)
 Lind M., Lehmacher W., Haraldson S., Fu X., Zuesongdham P., Huesmann R., Fich S. (2020) Smart ports as lighthouse nodes of supply chain networks, Port Technology International - The e-journal of ports and terminals, Edition 104-2020 (https://www.porttechnology.org/technical-papers/smart-ports-as-lighthous...)
 Becha H., Frazier T., Lind M., Schröder M., Voorspuij J. (2020) Smart Containers and Situational Awareness, Smart Maritime Network, 2020-08-12 (https://smartmaritimenetwork.com/2020/08/12/the-cargo-owners-case-for-sm...)
 Lehmacher W., Lind M., van Gogh M., Becha H., Kouwenhoven N., Lund E., Mulder H., Simha A., Clary F., Renz M., Murphy N. (2021) Responding to humanitarian and global concerns with digitally enabled supply chain visibility, in M. Lind, M. Michaelides, R. Ward, R. T. Watson (Eds.) Maritime informatics: Additional Perspectives and Applications. Forthcoming, Heidelberg: Springer