Ports + Startups = Ports 4.0

Industry 4.0 or the 4th industrial revolution, as many call it, has encouraged ports to use disruptive technologies to adapt to current legal frameworks and to be more competitive in the international logistics market. So that’s how ports 4.0 were born. But… How do startups contribute to all this? That’s what we want to tell you this time on.


Ports and startups partnership is not casual. It has been designed so that both parties can benefit from each other, with a win-win formula. On one hand, ports and terminals bring their needs to the table so that they’re not left out of the market, plus they can offer services according to the new conditions.

On the other hand, startups are emerging companies that offer innovative solutions based on the use of digital technology (IoT, big data, augmented reality, AI). They are at a very early stage of their development, so they’re constantly looking for partners that help them grow. This is when the port sector appears as an interesting ally.


What should a startup offer to be considered useful to a port 4.0?


First of all, you must know that for a port to be considered 4.0, it must meet the growing demands of efficiency, economy, safety, and environmental compatibility. That is why startups must be focused on innovative technological solutions, with proposals to:

  1. Increase the logistic processes efficiency: with focus on the infrastructural, operational or service provision, in any of the supply chain areas;
  2. 100% digitalization of processes and smart platforms: creating trust plus operations and information transparency through blockchain technology, for example;
  3. Environmental and energy sustainability: seeking alternative fuels to considerably reduce the emission of carbon and other pollutants, in accordance with the laws and agreements that regulate the maritime sector; or
  4. Security and protection: remote sensing, early warning, physical risk management, cybersecurity systems, automation of controls and processes, etc.

By 2020, the WTO (World Trade Organization) projects a considerable increase in global trade by sea. This is why both governments and private sector companies are betting for this new concept of ports 4.0 to pay off very soon.

At Spain, for example, the port authorities along with the Ports of the State have created the “Ports 4.0 Fund” with an initial contribution of 25 million euros. This initiative aims to push the private sector, which operates at its ports, to also bet on innovation in the industry at any stage of the transition process; as incubators, accelerators, and/or as technology partners… And it’s getting there! A success case is Telefonica, which currently participates in several projects related to smart ports: Tecnoport (Seville’s port) and Smart Viport (Vigo’s port).

IBM is also on this mood at the Rotterdam’s port (The Netherlands) by using IoT to create the port’s digital replica that reflects all of its resources, port movements, infrastructure, climatology, geographical location, and navigation data. It would help the port authority to determine how to improve the operations and to identify business and growth opportunities. Cartagena and Hamburg’s ports are also joining the transition to become ports 4.0.

There is still a lot to be improved in order to earn a place in the world’s top 10 ports and to be up to date with the 4th industrial revolution. But, there are also many startups with ingenuity and creativity that can help. There are no excuses, so, what are you waiting for to be part of this digital transformation?