The Port of Antwerp-Bruges proudly hosted the 9th chainPORT Annual Meeting from September 6th to 8th, 2023, gathering influential figures from the port industry to address the challenges and prospects shaping the future of ports worldwide.

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp Bruges and host of this year´s chainPORT Annual Meeting stated: “Over the past years, ports have been experiencing subsequent crises. Ports are levers for change that are determined to take up the challenge to be part of the future solution in the domains of climate change, energy security, data sharing, safety and security and many more. This situation requires ports to share insights and experiences and to raise the service levels to our port users. chainPORT undeniably reinforces this role.”

This year’s event featured keynote addresses from Microsoft, offering profound insights into the digital transformations and challenges revolutionising the maritime sector. Key topics included artificial intelligence (AI), the industrial metaverse, and sustainability. Myriam Broeders, CTO of Microsoft Belgium, shared a thought-provoking vision: “Ports of the future will serve as interactive bridges to new horizons. In navigating the currents of artificial intelligence and the industrial metaverse, let us remember that the compass to this new world is not just technology, but empathy and people empowered to achieve more, enriching the human experience rather than replacing it.”

chainPORT has partnered with the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) to establish a collaborative project. The primary objective is to develop a common understanding on critical components of digital port infrastructure that fosters the harmonisation of data throughout the maritime supply chain. Port Authorities have leveraged its neutral role to strengthen the cooperation on information exchange between shipping lines -Digital Container Shipping Association- (DCSA), terminal operators -Technical Industry Committee 4.0- (TIC 4.0) and port community systems -International Port Community System Association- (IPCSA).

Building on existing results in harmonisation and standardisation of participating parties, the standard processes and terminology (International Maritime Organization – Global Industry Alliance (IMO-GIA) Guideline on Just-in-Time Arrivals, IMO-endorsed International Taskforce Port Call Optimization (ITPCO) Process Map, etc.) associated with time stamps in the port call process will be brought together, to ensure high data quality, standardization, and smooth information flow through real-time communication channels.

Furthermore, the project prioritises meeting the evolving needs of Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs), who, in the post-pandemic era, seek heightened control and visibility across their supply chains.

Through diligent collaboration and coordination with all relevant stakeholders, chainPORT is committed to enhancing supply chain resilience in ports.

“In close collaboration with our strategic partners, we are actively taking essential measures to bolster port resilience and optimise supply chain operations. These efforts have gained even greater urgency, given the intricate landscape of geopolitics and the growing complexities in the realm of cybersecurity. Ports, being critical components of our global infrastructure, are subject to a unique set of pressures and vulnerabilities. Our primary objective is to fortify their resilience, ensuring the uninterrupted flow of global trade”, says Jens Meier, CEO of the Hamburg Port Authority and co-founder of chainPORT.

H.E. Herman Van Rompuy, EU President Emeritus and James Appathurai, NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges lead, both approached the challenging environment in which ports operate today, addressing economical, societal and security trends; domains which are inherently connected with port activities.
In line with chainPORT’s primary project, Managing Director of SeaBridge nv, Nadine Van Rompay shed light on the challenges posed by the growing regulatory landscape that BCOs must adhere to. The dialogue emphasised the importance of data visibility to ensure seamless operations and the necessity of transforming and optimising supply chains through digitalisation.

The energy transition was also a top priority on the agenda, highlighted by a visit to the Fluxys premises and a keynote address by Raphaël De Winter, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Fluxys, who remarked that ports and infrastructure players stand at the forefront of the energy transition, offering a trifecta of strengths – strategic location, formidable firepower, and a relentless commitment to innovation. Their strategic location intricately weaves them into the very fabric of global import and export value chains, acting as the linchpin between maritime port clusters and hinterland industries.

“chainPORT continues to be a driving force behind our digitalization efforts, and now we are witnessing how important port operations are to the global community. That’s why the urgency of our work has never been stronger than it is today,” said Port of Los Angeles Deputy Executive Director Michael DiBernardo. Decarbonization of the ocean supply chain is another major driver. In addition to sharing best practices during chainPORT’s Annual Meeting, the development of port-to-port initiatives – like green cargo shipping corridors, for example – also underscore the need for broader, port-centric collaboration.”

The chainPORT Annual Meeting remains a pivotal platform for port leaders to exchange knowledge, deliberate on best practices, and collaborate on pioneering solutions. With each passing year, it reaffirms the collective commitment to advancing the maritime industry towards a more prosperous and sustainable future.