Approximately 90% of global trade is carried by the shipping industry, and traditional ports are highly dependent on human proximal operation of container cranes and other machinery. With shortcomings in work and cost efficiency, it is becoming difficult for this approach to keep up with the rapid development of global shipping demands.
Fortunately, the arrival of 5G is providing the necessary means and pressing the “fast forward button” for the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, also benefiting the port industry. At the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, China Mobile Ningbo has worked with several partners to implement a number of innovative applications throughout the smart port workflow using the 5G industrial private network. China Mobile Ningbo aims to fully utilize 5G and other digital technologies to upgrade the port into a smart one, and to create a global exemplary commercial use model of 5G+ Smart Port.
Xu Mengqiang, General Manager of China Mobile Ningbo, Zhejiang, recently spoke at the online 5G+ Better World Summit.
Building the 5G+ smart port
The Ningbo-Zhoushan Port is the only port in the world with an annual throughput of over 1.1 billion tons, and it has held the title of the world’s busiest port for 11 consecutive years. Given its recent transformation from a large port to one of the world’s most important, the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port needs to address challenges in three aspects. First, in terms of efficiency, the port faces great shipping pressure, low customs clearance efficiency, and difficulties in collaboration. Second, in terms of costs, cargo handling costs are increasing year-on-year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and competition in the industry. Third, in terms of safety and security, personal safety, equipment safety, and information security all need be improved.
In September 2018, China Mobile Zhejiang and Zhejiang Seaport signed a 5G smart port strategic cooperation agreement. At the 5G+ Action Promotion Conference in May, China Mobile Zhejiang, Zhejiang Seaport, Huawei, and Zhenhua Heavy Industries signed a strategic cooperation agreement on 5G-powered smart port applications in the Meishan Port Area.
According to Xu Mengqiang, through explorations and practices, China Mobile Ningbo has defined a “365” approach to developing a 5G-powered smart port. “3” represents its three goals: increasing work efficiency, reducing labor cost, and improving security management. “6” represents its six capabilities in artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, edge computing, and security. “5” represents its five scenarios: remote control of rubber-tired gantry cranes, horizontal transport of container trucks, bridge crane intelligent tallying, assisted berthing, and integrated scheduling of port operations.
“With the ‘365’ approach, we are rapidly transforming Ningbo-Zhoushan Port into a 5G-powered smart port and making it one of China Mobile’s leading demonstration projects and model use cases,” said Xu.
China Mobile Ningbo was among the first in China to deploy 5G macro base stations in harbor areas. It has built a 5G network that covers the five harbor areas, 35 berths, and 77 container yards at Ningbo. To leverage 5G’s core capabilities, the operator has deployed China’s first mobile edge computing (MEC) server for ports and is among the world’s first to utilize 5G slicing. This addresses the critical requirements for low latency and large video uplink bandwidth for remotely controlling rubber-tired gantry cranes.
Facing the risks and challenges of 5G infrastructure and business changes, the operator built a service-centric and risk-informed end-to-end security management and control system to ensure security. Its Smart Port MEC Security Application project was incorporated in GSMA’s Powered-by-SA Use Cases.
China Mobile Ningbo also provided self-service purchase services for industry customers. Atomic-level capabilities are encapsulated into a standard set of API-based slice products on China Mobile Zhejiang’s 5G online store. Users can select the slices they need, customize specifications, place orders with one click, and activate services online. In addition, users can obtain network SLA monitoring data in real time on the self-service page.
Innovative applications highlight 5G’s value to industries
Traditional gantry cranes require on-site operation, which is inefficient and difficult to manage, and features a poor work environment. In April 2019, China Mobile Ningbo developed China’s first 5G remote control application for rubber-tired gantry cranes. This application enables real-time backhaul of 16-channel HD videos and allows gantry cranes to be controlled remotely. In May 2020, six 5G-powered, remotely controlled gantry crane clusters entered production. This was the largest project of its kind in China, and the measured efficiency improved by over 260%. Next, they will promote the development of industry standards for 5G rubber-tired gantry crane remote control systems.
Container trucks in the port areas need to run around the clock, and traditional trucks have high requirements for drivers. Drowsy driving poses a high safety risk. In May 2020, China Mobile Ningbo deployed 5G-powered Beidou reference stations, utilizing 5G, V2X, and high-precision positioning technologies to transfer Meishan Harbor Area’s existing trucks into self-driving trucks. They also built an end-to-end integrated network covering container trucks, mobile port equipment, and roads to support autonomous driving. Once these trucks are mass deployed, efficiency will be improved by over 40% and labor costs will be reduced by over 50%.
Digital, automated tallying is a key part of any smart port. In December 2019, China Mobile Ningbo worked with Ningbo-Zhoushan Port Communication Co., Ltd. to backhaul HD videos of quay cranes in real time with 5G, AI, and cloud computing technologies. This enabled container numbers and container damage to be automatically identified, improving container identification accuracy to at least 95%.
These explorations and practices are just phased achievements of China Mobile Ningbo’s efforts to build a 5G+ smart port. According to Xu, future smart port applications will go beyond scenarios like container yards and berths to become an integrated network of solutions for the ground, sea, sky, and even space. China Mobile Zhejiang will work with its partners to continuously drive smart port upgrades through new technologies and applications.