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The high-tech way to a smarter port

The Port of Singapore is leveraging technology to enhance terminal productivity and optimise workflow and processes. Below are three solutions being developed.

A high resolution, 42-megapixel camera is mounted on a lightweight UAV platform that together will weigh about 7kg and span just over a metre across.

"The Shipulse solution is based on capturing real time data with accuracy - directly from sensors and not crew - and computing them to provide analytical data that aids in decision making to optimise vessel performance," says Mr Sia.

Eye on even the smallest cracks

  • Project: Unmanned aerial vehicles for crack and corrosion detection by PSA

TO carry out inspections for cracks in the cranes at the port, teams of three use platforms to access critical areas. When these areas are out of reach, the inspectors use cameras with zoom lenses to get a better look, although clear images may not always be possible. To overcome this problem, PSA is developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a high resolution camera that can get closer to hard-to-reach areas of quay cranes without putting the inspectors at risk from working at height.

At the heart of the system is a high resolution, 42-megapixel camera that uses intelligent image and video analytics and thermal imaging to detect even small cracks. The camera will be mounted on a lightweight UAV platform that together will weigh about 7kg and span just over a metre across, making it easily transportable by vehicle. The UAV, which would be remotely controlled by the inspectors, is designed to take off and land vertically, and hover in flight much like a helicopter.

"Such characteristics are ideal for the inspection role that the system is designed for. We are currently configuring the camera system, particularly the image analytics. We will start using the UAV in our port from 2017," said Nelson Quek, head of engineering at PSA Corporation.

The system can scan a variety of surface conditions to differentiate between benign surface blemishes and actual cracks that need to be attended to. Meanwhile, the camera can perform even in low light, and operate when the UAV is in flight. Video images can also be sent back to the inspectors on the ground in real time.

Mr Quek noted that it currently takes 14 man-days a year to thoroughly inspect a quay crane. With the new system, PSA aims to reduce it by almost 1.5 man-days over the same period.

"What is more significant is that our inspection teams would be able to leverage the greatly enhanced capability to access hard-to-reach areas of the quay crane without the risk of working from height to detect corrosion and cracks," he said. "They will also benefit from an intelligent imaging system that can detect potential issues on our cranes."

Looking ahead, Mr Quek said that the consolidation of container port activities at the new Tuas Port would present many opportunities to develop or test new technologies. When completed, Tuas Port will have a scale of operations larger than any port in the world, with an annual capacity of 65 million TEUs.

Along with the UAV project, PSA is also progressively adopting a wide range of unmanned technologies including automated cranes and automated guided vehicles.

"In close collaboration with the Singapore government, technology providers, local institutes of higher learning, research institutes and other industry partners, PSA seeks to achieve breakthroughs in productivity, efficiency and reliability in its business operations," said Mr Quek.

Better decision processes with analytics system

  • Project: Fusion analytics, sense-making and prediction for maritime and port operations by IBM Singapore

A PROJECT by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and IBM aims to give MPA staff insights to help them make better decisions in their daily tasks.

The two-year effort will see the development of a prototype analytics system that will allow users to infer events of interest from the data, also known as "sense-making", and also forecast congestion at the port based on predicted vessel arrival times. It will also have a social media component that monitors the social media for events of concern to MPA, such as oil spill or pollution in Singapore waters, as well as potential security threats.

During the last six months of the project, IBM will install a live running version of the prototype at the MPA offices for staff to try using as part of their daily activities. The system will then be refined based on MPA user feedback. Officially launched in February this year, the live trial of the solution is scheduled to be rolled out with MPA in the second half of 2017.

"One of our main targets is to provide the relevant MPA departments with a unified environment for accessing the sense-making and predictive insights.

"The other main target is that each relevant department gains value from the system," explained Dr Laura Wynter, director of the IBM Research Collaboratory in Singapore.

For instance, in the area of maritime safety, the system can alert MPA staff in real-time to potential hazardous issues that warrant their investigation.

Said Dr Wynter: "Each should be alerted in a timely manner, automatically, to issues that they would not otherwise have been aware of, issues discovered directly from the fusion of the multiple data sources and the sense-making and predictive analytics that run on that data."

Intelligent ships in the making

  • Project: Comprehensive vessel performance management solution by Ascenz

A SOLUTION being developed by local technology firm Ascenz will be able to capture vital shipboard information and seamlessly transmit it back to shore for further analysis. The company's Shipulse Data Acquisition System (DAS) integrates with shipboard sensors to collect and transmit the data through both satellite and GSM networks.

The system is designed to track key metrics related to fuel consumption, engine, hull and propeller performance. For instance, it can promote transparency in a ship's procurement of bunkers, or marine fuel, by remotely monitoring bunkering transactions - including the volume and quality of the fuel delivered.

"It transforms vessels into smart ships. The Shipulse solution is based on capturing real time data with accuracy - directly from sensors and not crew - and computing them to provide analytical data that aids in decision making to optimise vessel performance. This works on most vessels, including workboats and ocean going vessels," said Sia Teck Chong, chief technology officer at Ascenz.

The company has been officially working on this project since November last year and is currently at the Beta launch stage with customers on board using and testing the solution.

The company will also be acquiring and verifying data at this stage to ensure that the data corresponds with established models with the highest accuracy possible, said Mr Sia.

"This is crucial as the formula can only be proven with access to and collection of large amount of data used in the verification process. In the meantime, fine tuning our own algorithm and method of implementation to reach optimisation is also happening in parallel," he explained.

"The tech team is constantly revisiting and expanding on our existing capabilities based on customer feedback, new industry standards and legislation to ensure Shipulse becomes a complete and comprehensive solution suite."

Ultimately, the system aims to minimise human error, improve productivity and increase accuracy.

Said Mr Sia: "We want to make it a mainstream practice for ship owners and operators to integrate our smart shipping concept across their fleets to achieve greater cost savings and greater energy efficiency and in the process, creating measurable ROI to make their investments worth the while."

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