Smart quay walls in the port of Rotterdam
In the series of impact stories from SmartPort; driver of port innovation
Imagine that physical inspection of quay walls is reduced to a minimum. Sensors monitor the condition of your quay and determine whether you can store more goods or raw materials on the quay. The quay communicates with autonomous ships and guarantees safe and efficient mooring. This may seem like a future, but the first steps have already been taken. A number of quay walls are already equipped with sensors and an IOT platform has been developed to process all data and to make a better estimation of the user space of quay walls. SmartPort (co-) finances scientific research to increase the efficient use of quay walls and prepare Rotterdam for a solid and firm future.
The best or smartest infrastructure in the world?
The port of Rotterdam has had the best infrastructure in the world for 6 years in a row (World Economic Forum). This is an important competitive advantage over other ports. At the same time, it is precisely this infrastructure that is challenged. More than 80% percent of the 74 kilometres of quay walls in the port of Rotterdam were built shortly after World War II and are currently older than 50 years. How long can these quay walls last? What impact do changing climatic conditions have on these quay walls? How does the changing use (more and / or larger ships) affect these quay walls? And how much capacity is there for other activities? SmartPort is active in research for responsible life extension of the quay walls. This is of great added value for the Port of Rotterdam Authority and the users of the quay walls (read: port-related companies). The research is aimed at increasing the usable space, maintenance efficiency and the possibilities of new activities (or multifunctional use) on quay walls. Just smart quay walls are not the goal, but a means to increase the usable space, maintenance efficiency and to offer possibilities for developing new activities (or multifunctional use) of quay walls.
Models give meaning to data
The only way to determine whether quay walls can last even longer is to visualize the conditions as accurately as possible. In 2017 TNO determined which data is needed to make a proper estimate of the condition of the quay wall. Researchers not only looked at data from the quay, such as the anchor force and water level, but also at GPS data and data from ships. The conclusion is that research is needed into realistic models behind the quay walls. These models are of great importance because they give meaning to the data from a quay wall: is a quay too heavily loaded, is there still user space, is the anchor force acceptable?
20% more user space
A limited number of quay walls in the port are already equipped with sensors (approx. 2% of the available length). Not all data is reliable and is measured at the same interval (every minute, every hour, every month, etc.). To determine whether this data could be used to determine the user space, TU Delft and Witteveen + Bos analyzed the data from part of the quay wall of European Mass Goods Transshipment (EMO) on the Maasvlakte (2017-2018). Data from EMO about the use on the quay was also implemented; where at what time the crane is located and the location and height of the coal heaps. Based on the analysis, it can be concluded that the permissible quay load is 20% higher than the load currently applied by EMO. In addition to this conclusion, recommendations for improving the mounting of sensors and measurement intervals followed. As a result of these findings, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has changed its guidelines for installing sensors in the construction of new quay walls.
New rules for quays
“It is important to continue to adapt standards and rules with regard to maritime infrastructure because there are continuous new technical insights, but also practical experiences at the port companies,” said Johan Boon, PIANC Secretary and Head of River Engineering and Inland Navigation Deltares. “Regulations with a healthy mix of technical innovation and feedback from practice ensure less down-time and less maintenance for customers in the port.” In short, gains can be made by looking at the safety space of quay walls. Experts (in the field of quay walls) have established that there are hidden safeguards in quay walls. For example, some quay walls are built much stronger than strictly necessary. To determine the benefits of this, SmartPort supports the research by TU Delft and the Port of Rotterdam Authority into the safety philosophy of quay walls (2016-2019). The first results of the study show that approximately 10% less investment costs are required for new construction by adjusting the risk classification. In addition, there is more user space and functionality with current quay walls.
Vopak en Shell
In addition to the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Vopak and Shell also manage jetties and quays. They are therefore responsible for the maintenance of these assets. In 2018, at the recommendation of SmartPort, a Risk-based Inspection was carried out for the first time on one of the Shell Pernis assets together with Shell, Vopak and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. The purpose of this was to exchange knowledge about the way of asset management and the available space for the use of sensors. This provided many new insights into the inspection method and prompted Shell to test sensors on the scaffold. Peter Bos, Senior Civil / Maritime Engineer at Shell Global Solution; “SmartPort connects us, as port infrastructure users, with technology, research and development and is a valuable partner to improve processes together.”
Autonomous ships and talking quay walls
During the investigations into quay walls, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, together with Cisco, IBM and Esri, built an IOT platform that has been online since the beginning of 2019. The purpose of this platform is to store all data from the port, so that in 2030 the first commercial autonomous sailing ship can moor in the port of Rotterdam. Data plays a crucial role in this, because a ship cannot physically see the port, but can only be sent via data points. To achieve a navigable port for autonomous ships, a digital twin or digital twin is needed for the port. The first step in this is to map the condition of the quay walls. At the end of November 2018, SmartPort organized a meeting with both the software providers: Cisco, IMB and Intel; (engineering) companies: Arcadis, Witteveen + Bos, Port of Rotterdam; and knowledge institutions: TNO, Deltares and TU Delft. The conclusion from this meeting is that the IOT platform can be an excellent base for storing all data from quay walls and converting it into a digital twin. The only question is which quays should be connected to which sensors in order to provide the correct data.
In order to determine the current condition of existing quay walls as accurately as possible and to make a more reliable prediction of future behavior, it is necessary to map the hidden strengths and weaknesses of the quays. These can be made transparent with small and large-scale tests on a quay, which also shows how many and of what type of sensors are needed at which locations within existing quays.
To this end, Deltares has drawn up a Plan of Action together with SmartPort to investigate these opportunities together with the Port of Rotterdam Authority, knowledge institutions and (engineering) companies. Following the example of the IJkdijk, it is being examined whether it is possible to eventually cause a quay to collapse – a IJkkade. This makes it possible to determine the optimal number of sensors per quay. If this is successful, than quays which have the potential to have more user and functionality space can be equipped with sensors and incorporated into a digital twin.
To predict the future
The question remains what kind of user space will be needed in the future. Consider changing activities due to the energy transition, such as the decrease of fossil raw materials and an increase in the use of hydrogen and biomass, among other things. Commissioned by SmartPort and the Port of Rotterdam Authority, a study has been carried out into Port Metatrends and the effect on port infrastructure (2017-2018).
Researcher Cornelis van Dorsser of TU Delft concluded that “The future is not so unpredictable”. Van Dorsser c.s. investigated the developments that will affect the port over the next 30 years on the basis of long-term trends such as; population growth, energy and resource use and technological developments. The researchers established that from 2040 sustainable industrial activities will take over the dominant position of the current fossil-driven industry. This leads to two conclusions: 1. Investments in infrastructure and thus quays can best be postponed as long as possible, in order to better respond to the changed use of the port from 2040; 2. The scarce space in the port must now be used as effectively as possible as a breeding ground for sustainable industrial activities. “Both conclusions are of great value to the Port of Rotterdam Authority,” emphasizes Egbert van der Wal, Manager Port Engineering at the Port of Rotterdam Authority: “This research stimulates the Port of Rotterdam Authority to be aware of the effect of trends and developments on infrastructural developments and asset management. . ”
A smart port has smart quay walls
“SmartPort ensures that Rotterdam remains the smartest port by connecting the best knowledge and the best companies,” said Paul Smits, former CFO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “That is exactly what SmartPort has done researching the quays of the future. Connecting knowledge of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, (engineering) companies and knowledge institutions to build the port of the future. This speeds up a reduction in physical inspections and downtime, increases user space functionality and makes the port ready for autonomous sailing
Investment in research quays of the future
For every euro that SmartPort invested in the period 2015-2018, the business community invested 0.45 euros. Total 570,000 euros.
SmartPort is a knowledge platform for scientific innovative research. SmartPort initiates and finances research for the Rotterdam port business community and forms coalitions between business, government and science. SmartPort works from a not-for-profit position and its main goal is to provide scientific knowledge for the port of the future.