Smart port

Smart technologies are proving their worth at the port. A ‘digital twin’ of the port, a high-performance 5G network, autonomous drones or smart cameras for inspection or oil spill detection – Port of Antwerp is testing them all. With the help of these innovations, Port of Antwerp is aiming to fully control and manage the port remotely.


Digital twin


The digital twin is a digital 3D map with real-time information: which ships are in which locks and docks? How high is the water level? How much energy are our wind turbines producing? Port of Antwerp is working on this kind of digital representation of the port area. The Antwerp Port Information & Control Assistant (APICA) is the brain of the application.


The technology will support port employees in doing their jobs more safely, efficiently and pleasantly. This allows for more accurate monitoring of moorings, faster detection of incidents, etc., which will improve the safety and smooth traffic flow at the port.


Today, APICA's brain consists of real-time data. The intention is to add historical data. From then on, we can also run simulations that predict what will happen in certain situations.


Unlike artificial intelligence, APICA will not make autonomous choices. It is a decision support mechanism that will help with managing the port more efficiently.


- Erwin Verstraelen, Chief Digital & Innovation officer at Port of Antwerp.




To make the large and complex port area even safer, more efficient and smarter, Port of Antwerp is working with various partners to build a network of manned and autonomous flying drones. The drones serve to inspect infrastructure, along with surveillance and monitoring, incident management, berth management and oil spill or floating waste detection.


The imagery of oil incidents is also used by the University of Antwerp to train algorithms to automatically detect oil incidents in the future.


Smart cameras


More than 600 cameras keep an eye on the port of Antwerp. These smart cameras can recognise objects thanks to computer vision technology.


This makes the maintenance and inspection of bridges, locks and quay walls easier. The cameras can also measure cargo traffic at the port and increase overall security.


5G network


In the future, 5G will form an important link in the Port of Antwerp's digital nervous system – for transmitting and processing images and data from drones and cameras in real-time, for example A number of pilot projects are currently underway, such as real-time video streaming between tugs in order to achieve better and safer co-ordination between the boats when carrying out an assignment.


In addition, Port of Antwerp, the City of Antwerp, Antwerp Police Precinct and Antwerp Fire Brigade are developing and testing a private 5G network to increase the speed, reliability and security of their digital applications.



Clever versus cutting-edge technology 


Innovation does not always have to be high-tech. For example, Port of Antwerp regularly checks the port infrastructure, such as quays, locks and bridges, for cracks or tears by means of bolt indicators. By attaching plastic flags to the bolts, you can see at a glance whether the nuts or bolts have been loosened and whether or not they need to be retightened.


Heaving lines weighted with illegal objects are very dangerous for boatmen. This was why Port of Antwerp employees came up with the idea of making safe sand bags and handing them out to offending ships. Sometimes, then, the answer is obvious with an analogue and innovative solution.