Ports have always been incubators of innovation and Port of Antwerp has developed as a leading smart port. Driven by innovation, Port of Antwerp optimizes the flows of goods and information, leads a sustainable development, guarantees safe and secure operations through the capabilities of its extended port community and enabling technologies.

A key element in being a leading smart port is APICA (Antwerp Port Information & Control Assistant). This is a virtual assistant that leverages the input of smart cameras, drones, sensors for air and water quality and combining all this data into a virtual model (digital twin) of the port. APICA provides real-time information on ship movements, flows of dangerous goods, air quality and weather conditions, but also detection of oil spills or conducts inspections of maritime infrastructure. Applying data science on the data in APICA will allow it to become predictive and prescriptive over time.

The transition to a low carbon economy is a key challenge in the coming years – innovation is a driver within the Port of Antwerp to help realise this. Currently, a first ever hydrogen tugboat is in construction and the preparations for building a ‘power-to-methanol’ factory are ongoing. The objective is to produce sustainable methanol by reusing captured CO2 in combination with sustainably generated hydrogen.

Plastic waste in rivers and oceans is a global problem where decisive solutions are still under development. Together with other stakeholders, Port of Antwerp is working on preventive solutions, clean-up projects and innovations to make our living environment plastic-free. Despite annual clean-up efforts, millions of tiny plastic pellets remain that cannot be collected by hand. To tackle this problem, Port of Antwerp initiated an innovation challenge which led to the Nul-O-Plastic. This large, manoeuvrable vacuum cleaner on caterpillar tracks efficiently sucks up small plastics in hard-to-reach terrain.

The port is a large area with enormous activities and possibilities. That is why we open up the port area as a living lab where ideas and projects can be safely tested in a real industrial environment. Port of Antwerp was the first to use the Romware Covid Radius that ensures social distancing and permits contact tracing.

Ports are busy hubs for shipping. The development of new IOT-devices, AI, smart cameras and radars allow a higher level of automation in shipping. Port of Antwerp has developed a first-ever fully automated depth sounding vessel, the Echodrone. Based on real-time AIS (Automatic Identification System) and radar information, the Echodrone navigates its way through the port smarter, autonomously and safely.

As an open innovation platform, Port of Antwerp is developing a network of drones to ensure a safe port. Pioneering since 2018 with a wide range of solutions using drones, it’s the firstport in the world which has a UTM (unmanned traffic management) system implemented to ensure efficient and safe use of drones by the various stakeholders in the port. Automated drones are being deployed to survey the large port area on potential risks and provide real-time footage in case of incidents or oil spills.

As one of the leading ports in the world, Port of Antwerp aspires to be the Port of the Future. It uses innovation as a lever to turn today’s major challenges such as energy transition, digitalisation and mobility into solutions. Through collaboration and the implementation of new technologies it continues to build on the sustainable growth of the port and make it more efficient, safe and smart.

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