Port Automation Industry Analysis


To develop a thorough understanding of the port automation industry, including current and future challenges, new technologies being used in the industry (e.g., data visualization, AI/IoT), workforce profile, and political and economic factors impacting the industry. Insights will be used to develop a 'State of the Industry' report to help a port technology client, Tideworks.

Early Findings

Current and Future Challenges Facing the Marine Port Industry

  • Some challenges facing marine terminals include infrastructure traffic and congestion (which may limit the flow of goods in and out of a port), balancing labor and technology (which results in challenges such as training and job impacts), sustainability issues, and container management (efficiently storing containers for re-use and managing the cost of moving containers).
  • Reducing carbon emissions is considered a top challenge for the port automation industry.
  • Ensuring safety in remote-controlled automation systems, implementing block chain technology, and reducing the risk of cyber attacks are additional issues that will need to be managed by the marine port industry.
  • Sustainability and workplace safety issues will continue to be industry challenges in the future.

Key Technologies in the Marine Port Industry

  • Technology is key to improving port efficiency, improving speed, and reducing cost.
  • According to Port Technology International (PTI), the top 5 emerging port technologies include drones (to improve supply chain speed and efficiency), 5G networks (to optimize the transfer of information and enable AI), Internet of Things (to automate daily operations and improve efficiency), Internet of Vehicles (to improve port traffic and safety), and Augmented Reality (providing visual support through real-time video imagery).
  • The Port of Los Angeles, a leader in implementing port automation, was the first port in the world to adopt automated straddle carriers to work in concert with automated stacking cranes (ASCs). The driver-less carriers move containers from ships to the ASCs, which automatically move the containers to a sorting and stacking area. The adoption of these technologies results in greater productivity and efficiency, reduced human error and sustainability benefits.

Workforce Demographic Profile and Recruitment

  • There is increasing demand for skilled workers at marine ports, due to factors including technology and increased traffic.
  • In-demand occupations include logistics technicians, marine engineers, and CAD/Drafting and Design Engineers.
  • Nearly 20% of occupations may require a college degree, though the majority of potential occupations' sill require a high school degree with industry certifications.
  • Key findings from a focus group on maritime port workforce challenges noted found that 74% of participants felt that workforce recruiting was only 'somewhat' effective, or 'not effective'.
  • In this same study, only 16% said they focused on recruiting college-age workers, while 26% only recruit adults via job fairs.
  • A Washington state maritime sector report identified workforce aging as a key industry challenge, with the average age of a maritime sector employee in 54 years old as of 2013, and limited interest among potential younger employees to fill open roles.

Political and Economic Factors Impacting Marine Terminals

  • Trade tensions between the US and China impacted the viability of the maritime industry, which includes marine terminals. Port traffic increased by 4.7% in 2018, compared to 6.7% in 2017.
  • Natural disasters and climate-related factors have also been increasing, impacting the industry. Related, regulatory impacts as a result of climate-related concerns have also impacted the industry.

Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals

We were able to find substantial information in our first hour of research about the challenges facing marine terminals/ports, as well as current and emerging port technologies being leveraged to address these challenges, improve efficiency and productivity, and help the industry better meet financial and sustainability goals. We also found information about workforce challenges, including perspectives about the evolving types of roles needed as technology becomes more prominent in the industry, and recruiting goals and challenges.

The focus of our research recommendations will be global (but could focus more prominently on countries in which information about maritime port challenges and technologies are more abundant).

In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and were unable to find any specific research reports that address your goals.

Proposed next steps:

You need to be the project owner to select a next step.