The Port of Zeebrugge is investing in the future by focusing on innovation. Far-reaching digitisation and further technological developments will render the port “future proof”.
As a port, we aim to serve as a facilitator for the various actors that are active in the port. Not only do we want to set a good example through our projects; we also want to provide support. The entire surface of the port area has been equipped with 5G, a super-fast, crucially important communication network, since 2020. The 5G network facilitates numerous applications, not only for the port, but also for the companies located there. In addition, 5G allows systems to exchange data faster.
Learn more about our 5G network in the case “5G: a piece of the puzzle that will ensure a green and safe port”.
In order to obtain a clear overview of all traffic flows, we are building a “digital twin”: a virtual model of the entire logistics chain of Zeebrugge. We are handling the management of two data platforms for this purpose: Zedis (a nautical information portal that has been in use for several years) and RX/SeaPort (which we developed in response to Brexit). Customs and other formalities are submitted digitally through that platform. This way we avoid long queues of trucks.
Two applications were launched in late 2020 to further simplify administration: Green Lanes and Green Light Control. The latest app allows truckers to see if check if they have permission to enter the port or a specific terminal. Law enforcement agencies use Green Lanes to verify that the records a truck driver is required to have are in order.
To speed up communication, we are also working on a control room where images from cameras in the port are brought in continuously. The Speed project is being developed in the lap of that control centre. Thanks to Speed, we can set up an early warning system to detect incipient traffic jams, unauthorised vehicles and truck anomalies.
Automated “Safety drones” using the 5G network immediately travel to the scene of an incident reported to the fire department to take photos of the incident. Drones help law enforcement and emergency services obtain information better and faster. However, the possibilities are even more numerous. Businesses could use drones to inspect their solar panels or count cars, for example.
“The next big thing”: the expectations with regard to 5G are sky-high. The Port of Zeebrugge did not want to miss the boat and invested in a high-speed communication network. The project started to gain momentum in 2020.
Together with service provider Citymesh and Nokia, the Port of Zeebrugge made the 5G network operational in the outer port in 2019. The inner port followed in 2020 and in succession the entire port area and an offshore area are provided with 5G. Peter Merlevede, Innovation & Digitalisation Manager at Port of Zeebrugge, underscores the importance of this investment: “The port is playing a pioneering role in this. The network enables numerous revolutionary applications. Not only for the port authority itself, but for all players in the port. Moreover, 5G offers the companies in the port many commercial advantages. After all, for our 5G has been the standard for our Asian customers for quite some time now.”
“The possibilities in terms of application are numerous. The 5G network enables us to retrieve data from offshore wind farms, for example. It improves connectivity between the headquarters and the surrounding port by connecting tugboats, quay sensors, cameras and sniffer poles (which measure local air quality, ed.). Even our drone flights would hardly be as efficient without 5G. There are also projects that focus on autonomous shipping, self-driving cars, augmented reality, and so on. There will also be more and more sensors running on 5G. These will provide a lot of new data and insights. How about a sensor that can measure an increase in air pollution when a ship passes by in real time? The 5G network is therefore becoming a genuine accelerator in and around the Port of Zeebrugge.”