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China’s Automated Smart Ports

Despite recent headwinds to the global port and water transportation industry, China leads the world in the number of automated terminals built and under construction, according to the Ministry of Transport. China’s major ports have increased throughput while making significant digital and intelligent construction progress.

As a result of the nation’s manufacturing advantages, the nation has emerged as a global leader in the intellectual development of ports. China has formed a development path in which the reconstruction of new harbours and traditional wharves go hand in hand, with various technological routes taken concurrently.

For example, since China laid the first pile in December 2019, it has only taken 33 months to build Tianjin Ports, an intelligent zero-carbon terminal. The smart port has increased the operating efficiency of the single bridge increased by more than 40% and personnel allocation decreased by 60% compared to the traditional harbour.

Another example of the most recent achievements in constructing intelligent terminals in China is the remote-control distance of equipment at the fourth phase of the Shanghai Yangshan Deep Water Port exceeding 100 kilometres. About 16 automated bridge cranes and 76 automated track cranes run smoothly at the automated port terminal in Qingdao, Shandong province, and 83 automatic guided vehicles shuttle back and forth.

According to Mi Weijian, a professor at Shanghai Maritime University, although China began building smart ports relatively late, favourable policies have been released in recent years. Mi noted that the Chinese port’s level of intelligence is already at the forefront of the world, playing a leading and exemplary role in the intellectual development of global ports. Thanks to the innovative concept and practice of intelligent port construction combined with the continuous investment of domestic ports and many high-tech enterprises

According to one of China’s technology group, the company have been collaborating with other enterprises since 2020 to upgrade its existing port facilities in Shandong into a fully automated waterfront container terminal, reducing overall costs by 70% compared to newly built terminals.

Nowadays, they have traditional terminals, semi-automatic terminals, and fully automated terminals. Therefore, a ship can be loaded and unloaded in three different types of terminals, maximising the integration of terminal resources.

Meanwhile, the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Multi-modal Distribution and Connectivity Centre, or DC Centre, was established in June to improve both countries’ transportation and logistics ecosystems, as well as strengthen supply chain resilience and accelerate trade digitalisation.

The DC Centre will be a physical location for multi-modal operations in Chongqing and help build the CCI-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor as a vital project of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI) and logistics priority area.

The DC Centre will complement current and planned facilities such as the Guoyuan Port and Yuzui Terminal South Yard to integrate better Chongqing’s key road, rail, and river logistics nodes and provide logistics participants with a smooth experience.

The collaboration between China and Singapore in the digital transformation effort is becoming more intense. Both countries recently signed eight (8) Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) in November and unveiled fourteen (14) new joint projects as part of the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative (SCI).

As they build economic recovery and resilience, Singapore and Shenzhen will create a suitable business environment for enterprises to innovate and conduct cross-border transactions safely and smoothly. As the SCI enters its third year of operation, the meeting reported that the number of new cooperative initiatives has more than doubled compared to the previous year.

These new initiatives will strengthen the existing Singapore-Shenzhen partnership by fostering digital transformation and policy innovation and opening new commercial and employment opportunities in research and innovation, trade, sustainability, and talent development. For example, one of the most critical areas of collaboration in the last year has been the ease of digital transactions using electronic Bills of Lading (eBLs).


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