Jurong Port, one of Singapore’s two main commercial port operators, is as old as Singapore’s independence. But while the nation state has gone on to embrace all that tech can do, the Port may have been slower in its digital uptake.
“Through the decades, cargo handling in the port had remained labour intensive,” says Tan Wee Meng, Chief Technical Officer of Jurong Port. “Traditional practices contributed to the low adoption of mechanisation and automation”.
Not anymore. Jurong Port has turned to live video streaming in its cement terminal to unload cargo from its berths. GovInsider spoke with Tan to find out more on how tech is transforming the port.
Jurong Port is automating its operations to address “safety and labour concerns”, Tan says. Port operators have started to unload cement remotely via real-time video streaming, so unloading can be “safely conducted with minimal human intervention”.
Previously, workers used wireless controllers that had to be operated next to the unloading vessel, and they would sometimes have to spend more than 12 hours to fully unload the ship.
The Port is also automating their cement unloaders. Imagine a giant screw turning through tons of cement. The screw lifts the powder up as it winds, pulling it into a vacuum chute and onto a conveyor belt which transports it to the packing station – without humans required.
The Port has also bought custom-built machines that can both lift and transport steel. These combine the capabilities of forklifts and trucks, reducing the manpower required to handle steel cargo by two-thirds, shares Tan. They also speed up vessel turnaround time and increase productivity, he adds.
Optimise energy use
Jurong Port doesn’t just want to reduce wasted time – they are cutting energy consumption as well. It has two energy-saving tools in the works.
First, it is testing a small-scale power grid that will use AI to manage different energy sources powering the Port. It will generate energy from multiple sources, including solar and natural gas, explains Tan. This grid will also reduce energy wastage by converting the heat energy that dissipates from machines to generate chilled water for air-conditioning.
Second, Jurong Port will use IoT-based smart meters that remotely monitor and track each machine’s energy usage. This will “phase out the need for physical checks of every electricity consumption meter”, Tan says.
These two solutions, when combined, will enable Jurong Port to “tap on multiple energy sources, lower energy consumption and carbon emissions to achieve cost savings,” notes Tan.
Jurong Port is also exploring producing its own forms of energy to power its operations. Singapore is very sunny, and Jurong houses the world’s largest port-based solar power plant, which supplied almost 70 per cent of the electricity the port needed last year.
Sustainability is vital, because the Port’s greater use of machinery in its digital journey could lead to higher energy consumption. “No matter what equipment is put in place, we are focused on powering them in a cleaner way,’ Tan says.
We’re all working remotely now. And so is Jurong Port – offloading the fuel Singapore needs to keep it going.