Monday, 19 February 2018

Interview: Complete Transformation of How Ports Operate Imminent

A complete transformation of how ports operate is on the horizon, according to Bret Greenstein, Vice President of Watson Internet of Things (IoT), Consumer Offerings, IBM.
Over the past few years, IBM has partnered up with industry majors such as Maersk Group and CMA CGM in order to digitize their ways of doing business.

Bret Greenstein; Image Courtesy: Twitter

World Maritime News spoke with Mr. Greenstein on the digital transformation of the maritime industry and IBM’s role in the process on the back of the company’s recent announcement on establishing cooperation with the Port of Rotterdam Authority aimed at making Rotterdam a “smart port of the future.”
Greenstein points out that the technology is transforming every aspect of every industry, and early adopters will be able to boost their competitive edge.
“In fact, according to estimates at the Port of Rotterdam, shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time, which can amount to about USD 80,000 in savings for ship operators and enables the port to dock more ships each day.”
The digitization of the Port of Rotterdam involves replacing traditional and manual communication methods with solutions powered by big data, IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In practice, that means that ship and port operators who previously relied on traditional radio and radars to make key decisions on port operations will now have a single dashboard with information such as weather and traffic.
IoT-enabled sensors gather multiple data streams about tides and currents, temperature, wind speed and direction, water levels, berth availability and visibility, which can then be analyzed using AI. These insights ultimately help operators make decisions that reduce wait times, determine optimal times for ships to dock, load and unload, and enable more ships into the available space, according to IBM.
One of the key goals at the Port of Rotterdam of adopting digitization is to host autonomous ships in the 42-kilometer port area that stretches from the North Sea into the City of Rotterdam.
“To help prepare for that future, the port is using IBM IoT to create a digital twin of the port – an exact digital replica of our operations that will mirror all resources at the port of Rotterdam, tracking ship movements, infrastructure, weather, geographical and water depth data with 100 pct accuracy. This part of our digitization initiative will help us test out scenarios and better understand how we can improve efficiencies across our operations, while maintaining strict safety standards,” Greenstein said.
As explained, there is a growing need for a modern and transparent supply chain across all industries that embrace new technologies, so as new technologies emerge, they are fully ready and capable to adapt them.

Containerschip APM ECT terminals Europahaven; Image Courtesy: Port of Rotterdam Authority

The shipping industry, in particular, is a critical part of the global supply chain, as more than 85 percent of globally traded goods travel on a ship at least once during their lifecycle.
“Digitizing the shipping industry enables supply chains and businesses to be more efficient, cost-effective, and transparent. As the industry transforms with digital technologies, we’ll start to see operations improve with less wait times for ships, easier communication between the multiple parties involved in the port, and streamlined traffic flows,” Greenstein said.

Image Courtesy: IBM

With regard to the sentiment among industry players when it comes to adopting digitization, IBM’s expert says that the industry is highly optimistic about digital adoption and its business benefits.
“You’ll see many ports around the world starting to explore digitization and understand how it can impact their business.
“The Port of Rotterdam, specifically, has entered into a multi-phase digital transformation to become the smartest port in the world. This means better operations now, but also the ability to accommodate autonomous ships in the future,” Greenstein noted.
Digitization and blockchain technology are fairly new trends in the industry. Hence, there are various challenges taking into account the complexity of the supply chain.
According to Greenstein, there is a common misconception that blockchain or IoT are one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to the supply chain.
“Right now, we’re still in a period of education and increasing the understanding of how these technologies apply to each individual business. (…) However, each business has its own set of supply chain needs that need to be considered. We educate our clients on how to apply — and more importantly, scale – these technologies so they are best suited to their business.”
Considering the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks, WMN was interested in IBM’s approach when it comes to ensuring security and confidentiality of data.
The financial cost of such a breach, which remain unreported or even unidentified by companies to a great extent, can reach millions of dollars.
To remind, the cyber attack that hit Danish-based A.P. Moller – Maersk on June 27, 2017 damaged the company’s business performance by up to USD 300 million in the Q3, 2017.
“Savvy players in every industry know that in today’s data-driven, highly distributed world, data privacy and security must be addressed head-on,” Greenstein stressed.
“IBM’s IoT platform has security built in by design and is built on the highest standards of security and it extends the same grade of security to applications that fully leverage available security features. 
“With our advanced Threat Intelligence for IoT security capabilities, customers may now visualize critical risks in the IoT landscape and create policy-driven mitigation actions to automate operational responses for IoT devices at scale.”
Finally, speaking about what the future has in store for the maritime industry, Greenstein sees a future dominated by autonomous ships that rely on smart technology.
In today’s data-driven data privacy and security must be addressed head-on.
“Autonomous shipping will be facilitated by the introduction of digital dolphins, which are smart quay walls and sensor-equipped buoys,” he further notes.
“These digital dolphins provide insights on the condition and utilization of a berthing terminal and the surrounding water and weather conditions, allowing port operators to identify the optimal time for ships to dock, and where and when they can do so. Additionally, when you apply machine learning to this data, operators will be able to rely on 100 pct accurate, real-time data about the port’s infrastructure.”
“IBM provides cloud-based IoT and AI solutions that enable this data to be collected, analyzed, and broken down into tangible insights. Across industries, there is an infinite amount of data being collected from devices, 80 percent of which is currently unsearchable. Our capabilities at IBM are enabling industries to understand that data and use it to make quick, informed business decisions, and ultimately create more efficient business models,” he added.
World Maritime News Staff

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Suffolk Coastal reports improving air quality

Suffolk Coastal council has reported that air quality within the borough remains ‘generally good’ but that concerns remain in two areas over nitrogen dioxide pollution emissions.
The borough is the home of the government minister responsible for air quality policy, Therese Coffey, and has published the results of its 2017 Air Quality Annual Status Report, which has been approved by Dr Coffey’s Department.

According to the report, the main source of emissions within the majority of the district, is road traffic predominantly formed of NO2 and particulate matter (PM). Emissions from the Port of Felixstowe are also thought to be a major contributor to air pollution within the borough.
An AQMA at Felixstowe has been revoked due to improved air quality in the area.
The report includes monitoring data for 2016 and details progress on actions to improve air quality within two designated Air Quality Management Areas (Woodbridge and Stratford St. Andrew), and across the district as a whole.


The 2016 report suggests that only one monitoring location within the declared AQMA at Stratford St. Andrew, where NO2 is above the annual mean 40 µgm/m3 objective level. There is a general trend of NO2 reductions across the district over time, the council reports.
Proposals are currently being finalised to bring about further improvements in air quality for the Stratford St Andrew AQMA which is expected to be finalised shortly.
The plan consists of two short term, priority action measures and six longer term aspirational measures.
The main measure within the draft Action Plan is to move speed limits around the village was completed by Suffolk County Council in December 2017, with the council to assess the results of monitoring for 2018 in order to determine its effectiveness in reducing nitrogen dioxide concentrations within the AQMA.
Commenting on the report Cllr Carol Poulter, Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet member with responsibility for the green environment, said: “The really good news is that our monitoring reveals that the nitrogen dioxide levels within the Woodbridge AQMA have reduced in recent times to below the standard set by the Government for the third year running.
“This trend also continues to be seen within and around the revoked AQMA at Felixstowe due to considerable emissions reduction projects being undertaken by the Port of Felixstowe.”

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Modern Capitalism Has Opened a Major New Front for Strike Actions: Logistics

A strike in a key warehouse or supplier could close production up and down a supply chain. (Getty)   
This post first appeared at The Conversation.
The decline of trade unions across the developed nations is nothing new. In the United States, the proportion of workers in unions fell from a high of 35% in 1954, mostly in the private sector, to 11% in 2016 with nearly half in the public sector. Union density in the UK fell from a high of 55% in 1979 to 25% in 2016.
Despite the recent revival of the left in both countries, the days when unions had the power to demand major concessions and win still seem far away. Partly thanks to tough labor laws and employer aggression, their role has become much more about consultation than domination.
Now, however, a comeback looks possible – and not only because of the political climate. Changes in the corporate landscape since the Reagan/Thatcher era point to big opportunities for organized labor. The question is whether unions will try to take advantage.
Why the decline?
In the United States, the fall of labor began at the end of World War II as major manufacturers moved production facilities to the non-union South to reduce costs and escape big concentrations of unionized workers like those around Detroit, Gary, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Between 1947 and 1972, Dixie’s contribution to American manufacturing value-added near-doubled to almost a quarter of the total. The big industrial unions saw membership peak by the early 1970s, never to grow again. The UK would follow this trend thanks to the decline of its manufacturing base and Margaret Thatcher’s determination to smash union power in the 1980s.
Another key trend was a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the 1960s, launched by cash-rich corporations benefiting from strong economic growth. This dealmaking grew from about 1,200 a year in 1963 in the US, for example, to a high of 6,000 in 1969, though it was prevalent in many countries. This produced the rise of conglomerates – firms offering a wide variety of often unrelated goods and services.
The unions had been primarily in corporations defined by a single major product line like cars or steel. Being part of a much bigger whole reduced workers’ potential to do damage through industrial action. This in turn made unions less attractive and further squeezed membership numbers.
Many more union jobs were destroyed by the steep recession of 1979-82, and then intensifying competition from globalization by the mid-1980s. Many Western corporations took a page from their Japanese competitors’ playbook and introduced lean production: producing more with fewer workers; more outsourcing; and just-in-time delivery of parts, cutting inventories to a minimum.
Lean production helped companies recover their profitability, but the increase in global competition led to another huge wave of mergers: from 4,239 valued at $206 billion (£152 billion) in 1990 to 11,169 valued at $3.4 trillion in 2000. After 2001 they levelled off to about 7,000 a year, still well above pre-1990s levels. European companies followed a very similar trend, with the UK accounting for the largest share.
But this time capital abandoned conglomeration to redirect production along focused product lines. It created corporations much like those organized by the industrial unions in the 1930s. In addition, this time they involved massive amounts of fixed capital and costs that made them vulnerable to labor actions.
This has been compounded by what is sometimes called the logistics revolution. This refers to a major reorganization of the movement of goods that has become necessary as the just-in-time model has spread through supply chains and the speed of delivery has become intensely competitive in the online era.
Enormous logistical clusters of transport, warehouses, ICT networks and intermodal facilities have sprung up. They are mostly in or adjacent to large urban areas, the biggest including New York, Chicago, Rotterdam, Hamburg and London.
The number of warehouses in the United States has grown one and a half times since 1998 to over 17,000 in 2017, for example. While automation is often a feature, labour still accounts for 65% of average operating costs, while the number of warehouse workers has grown from 356,800 in June 1990 to 830,700 in June 2017. Total logistics employees in America are around 4 million.
These are the people on whom today’s industrially focused corporations completely depend. Really big hubs need upwards of 100,000 workers to function. Take Chicago, with over 150,000 transportation and warehouse workers in the metropolitan area. Or FedEx’s newer Memphis cluster, which employs 15,000 workers directly and 220,000 in related transport and warehouse activities.
In the UK there are clusters around Liverpool-Manchester, the Midlands, Glasgow, and London. The London Gateway port and its 9 million square foot logistics park opened in 2013 and will employ 27,000 workers when fully operative, extending an east London cluster that also includes Dagenham Dock, Tilbury Docks and London Thamesport.
In addition, major UK freight railways are upgrading to create a Strategic Freight Networksimilar to the huge rail corridors in the United States. Altogether, the UK logistics sector employs 1.7 million workers. Across Europe as a whole, logistics investment has grown at two and a half times GDP according to one estimate.
Opportunity knocks
These clusters look highly vulnerable to worker disruption. A strike in a key warehouse or supplier could close production up and down a supply chain, potentially inflicting huge damage on a business’s reputation for reliability among its partners. This could put enormous pressure on employers to grant concessions or recognise a new union without the need for the sort of secondary or sympathy strike action that is illegal in many countries.
It is one of the great ironies of modern capitalism that we are now seeing the massive concentrations of manual workers that business leaders once sought to escape. We have not yet seen unions trying to take advantage of these situations, partly perhaps after decades on the backfoot and partly because the likes of warehouse workers tend not to be unionised.
Yet I know from my research that both union and business leaders are well aware of the risks inherent in the new corporate system and giving them serious thought. In an increasingly angry world, these hubs could become a major flashpoint: it will be fascinating to see whether unions begin trying to capitalize.

About this Blog

"Working In These Times" is dedicated to providing independent and incisive coverage of the labor movement and the struggles of workers to obtain safe, healthy and just workplaces. MOREThe Conversation

Kim Moody is a co-founder of Labor Notes. He is the author of numerous books about the American labor movement, including On New Terrain: How Capital Is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War.