At our ports: addressing the infrastructure challenges that hinder efficiency

As one of the consequences of the COVID19 pandemic, ports have come into the global spotlight as the most important gateway for trade and supply chain smoothness. 

After the outbreak of the global pandemic, in the second quarter of 2020, an initial collapse in demand for products and goods was followed by an unexpected increase in demand for consumer goods and consumables. It disrupted the global supply chain to the point where just-in-time (JIT) was replaced by inventory growth that clogged the world’s sea and land transportation arteries inland warehouses and distribution centers, causing port congestion at the world’s most important gateways. 

Congestion at major global port centers 

  • Reduced efficiency of inland connections for inbound and outbound cargo, resulting in  supply shortages for consumers and industry, highlighted the lack of long-term investment in port infrastructure. 
  • The collapse of many maritime logistics chains had tangible consequences for the countries served by the ports and their populations. 

Recent disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have highlighted shortfalls in port capacity and efficiency, which are now high on the agenda of regional, national, and international regulators. This provides an opportunity to eliminate these deficiencies in the port’s infrastructure.

Seaports face the unique challenge of being at the intersection of the maritime transport supply chain and the land-based logistics chain, which involves complex interactions between public and private sector stakeholders. Ports have the potential to improve the competitiveness of both chains as digitization enablers.

The key issue of cargo and passenger traceability highlighted by the pandemic has led to a growing awareness of the need to accelerate digitization across the global supply chain. 

While digitalization has reduced human-to-human communication to minimize health risks, it has also exposed difficulties in realizing true data collaboration due to governance gaps, the adoption of global data standards, a lack of willingness to share data for self-benefit, and a lack of public-to-public communication, data transparency, and private individuals. 

Port authorities have the potential to act as a mediator between different stakeholders to encourage information collaboration, initially implementing a single window for maritime traffic and bringing together the interests of port stakeholders to work together to share maritime, administrative, and operational information to reduce inefficiencies, improve supply chain efficiency, and ultimately shore up idle time.

infrastructure port challenges

Climate Change and Challenges

Climate change, the impact of extreme weather on supply chains, the emergence of low-carbon and carbon-free fuels, and increasing pressure from regulators to reduce carbon emissions from the maritime industry have positioned ports as a key potential energy source. 

  • The emergence of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels as potential substitutes for traditional hydrocarbon-based equivalents to meet global and regional regulatory targets to reduce industrial carbon emissions creates an opportunity for ports to become potential energy hubs. 
  • Ports can do more than just service ships with these new fuels. 
  • The challenge to realizing its potential is to overcome the financial gap between the production costs of new and old fuels, which can only be overcome if the selected ports also become production energy centers, land transport modes, and energy supplies for the local population and/or industry. recycling It also opens up new opportunities for certain ports in developing countries in areas where green solar and wind power generation can become both bunker and energy hubs.

General demand for new carbon-free fuels creates new business opportunities for ports. 

It is estimated that the world needs an 18-fold increase in renewable energy capacity across all zero-emission fuels to meet the recent COP26 targets and that 50% of  that capacity could be used to transport ships, creating an additional opportunity for ports In addition, the relatively low density of carbon-free fuels means that ships need to bunker more often, regardless of the fuel capacity of the most advanced ships, creating unique opportunities for ports well positioned to receive them in core trade, including routes for container, bulk, and universal cargo. However, there is a risk that developing countries will be left behind (including ship visits and cargo volumes) if new fuel centers are limited to developed countries in Europe, North America, and Asia.
The World Bank is launching a program to support eligible countries and ports to assess their viability as green fuel production sites and to become new refueling sites.

Global shipping Schedule

According to a recent analysis by Sea-Intelligence, the worldwide reliability of the schedule continues to increase. 
In its latest Global Liner Performance (GLP) survey, Sea-Intelligence recorded the highest monthly growth (M/M) in 2022, up 5.8 percent from
6.2 percent in August.

  1. Average shipping delays have fallen sharply this year and eased slightly in recent months.
  2. In August 2022, the average delay improved sharply again, falling by -0.57 days M/M to 5.86 days.
  3. This is now the first time the average delay has fallen below the six-day mark since April 2021.


global schedule

With a schedule reliability of 53.0 percent in August 2022, Maersk was the most reliable airline, followed by CMA CGM with
6.0 percent. Another six carriers recorded schedule reliability above.40 percent, five airlines recorded schedule reliability between 30 and
40 percent, while Yang Ming recorded the lowest schedule reliability at 29.8 percent.
As of August 2022, many airlines were very close to each other in terms of schedule reliability, with 10 airlines within 7 percentage points of each other. 12 of the 14
The largest operators improved M/M, while all 14Operators improved year after year. Of these operators, 11 recorded double-digit improvements and three improved by more than 20 percentage points.

carrier scores

The gaps in global port infrastructure

The supply chain crunch has an impact on port resilience, with ports acting as a single node in a complex, interconnected logistics network.

These include (but are not limited to) port authorities, terminal operators, carriers, Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs), the COVID-19-impacted workforce, drayage, rail carriers, chassis owners, and truck drivers. 

The problems cannot be called out singly, and therefore the issue becomes one of entanglement, where it is very difficult to distinguish interconnected problems for effective intervention.  

The entanglement essentially means that importers and exporters are locked into supply chain flows (even when using replacement port supply chains in neighboring or alternative countries or regions), with each part of the chain interdependent and vulnerable to the weakest link, and many parts of the chain lacking adequate information and data to react or plan for future cargo flows.

The solution to disentanglement lies in active collaboration between logistics players at each exchange point for cargo with improved transparency in data availability and exchange, including ports.

  • The continued reliance on trucks versus other intermodal transportation options is impacting supply chain fluidity and efforts to decarbonize. The majority of the world’s regions still rely on trucks as the main hinterland transport mode connecting ports. 
  • Aging diesel fleets with inefficient engines queuing for loads have caused congestion and air quality problems, particularly in urban ports where road expansion capacity is limited. Volatile fuel prices affect an industry dominated by single-owner operators and lead to widespread industrial unrest. 
  • Pioneering ports have tried to encourage the replacement of inefficient engines and the use of alternative low-carbon or zero-carbon fuels, although widespread adoption is limited. 

While progress has been made in some areas in moving cargo from road to rail and barge, further efficiency improvements  are needed to enable cargo owners to switch modes. While some regions have made progress in improving rail connectivity by investing in improving accessibility through new routes or increasing service frequencies, many regions of the world do not have enough tracks, rolling stock, or drivers to meet the additional demand. 

 Port infrastructure Market Size 2021-2030


Progressive solutions on the way

Progress in improving inland ferry connectivity continues to be hindered in many areas by the industry being dominated by a single owner-operator that lacks scale and coordination, low-priority ports indicating barge loading and unloading, and, in some cases, river and lake accessibility due to seasonal changes caused by climate change. 

However, increased global consolidation in the private logistics sector in many regions offers an opportunity to improve the synchronization of functionality between ships, countries, and land-water intermodal transport.


  • Increases in the maximum capacity of ports and the utilization rate of inland storage and distribution infrastructure require that ports review their land investment portfolios and work with investors to build new inland container depots.
  • Warehouses and distribution centers at or near full capacity amid the recovery in global post-pandemic demand have caused congestion at docks and quays. Shipments that cannot pick up cargo due to lack of freight or rail options or want to maintain inventory at ports  despite demurrage costs remain a significant challenge for ports. 

Floating Ports Terminals

Floating quay will take time to build but there is a possibility to move towards this solution for longer economic favourable results.

A floating dock can be used and designed in many different ways, and therefore different for each port. Choices to be made include, for example, the number of end users (proprietary or multi-user?)

Stacking resources and the number of cranes running on the platform 

  • Each of the system-level choices have consequences at a later stage. For example, the stacking configuration gives
  • More stacking power but increases the platform’s dimensions. In addition to the uses of the floating dock, there are several ways to build the functional systems. 
  • Floating elements can be built as a pontoon, catamaran, or semi-submersible. Other aspects related to further planning include, e.g., location systems and connections between elements.
  • Transportation of containers over the A floating dock can be done with AGVs. The advantages of this design are: the high utilization rate of the
  • design, relatively small dimensions for better maneuverability, and the flexible structure .
  • The disadvantages of this design are as follows: ships cannot unload there are floating docks on both sides, and direct transfer is limited. 

Unused Land

The creative search for unused land in the vicinity of ports to act as “popup” storage areas and partnering with logistics companies to enlarge or invest in new cross-docking and inland container depots at strategic intermodal intersections has already been proven as a way of improving supply chain resilience. Efforts to improve port efficiency through automation vary considerably between regions of the world and are impacted by their location, labor skillsets, and labor regulatory environments.

For those ports located in cities with limited options to expand capacity, combining investments in labor and a pragmatic combination of automated and skilled labor processes may offer a path forward to meet future demand. 

Reducing the efficiency gaps in official cargo, passenger, and other government clearances should be addressed together, not separately. In many developing countries, the efficiency of a port or terminal depends on the transparency and efficiency of settlement procedures. 

Without a well-established government structure and cross-ministerial action that brings the private and public sectors together to implement a digitized process, the rationalization of customs clearance and other processes is unlikely to succeed.

Drone for yard Inventory & counting at ports

The adoption of drones  in logistics and supply chain inventory could potentially be a game changer, drones are equipped with motion sensors and 3D cameras to examine and analyze warehouse interiors, as well as GPS  to navigate  outdoor spaces, intelligent automation software, i.e. software that allows multiple drones to fly independently, precisely hover  and precisely for landing, computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, high-quality video, cloud connectivity, robotics, autopilots and many other technical functions to read barcodes, QR codes, text and radio frequency identification ( RFID) on warehouse products. Reports generated by the drone can then be linked to the company’s inventory management system and A real-time variance report is generated between the recorded real-time data and the WMS data, which is further investigated and resolved.


Human capital is considered a critical factor in bridging global port infrastructure gaps. 


The transformation of ports from lessors to potential organizers of supply chain smoothness, carbon-free energy centers for industrial production, and shipping clusters serving local port communities requires a change in the management of ports and the management profiles that guide them. 

The Gaps exercise identified this shift taking place across many of the world’s largest shipping lines, terminal operators, and logistics providers. However, there are still few examples of significant changes in the work organization of port owners and port managers. Ports can only succeed in the process by attracting young and diverse talent to the industry. 

To achieve a change in the mindset of ports and other supply chain stakeholders to deliver supply chain as a service, the industry also needs to be measurable, comparable, and up-to-date.

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