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The Port of Barcelona is undergoing a significant transformation. In a few years, the Port of Barcelona aims to be a leading logistics hub in Europe. Its goal is to become a combination of a continental intermodal centre, a regional logistics platform, a clean fuels hub, a circular economy platform, a blue economy technology district and a robotics innovation and training hub.

It will use a smart model combining artificial intelligence (AI), digitalisation, big data, the Internet of things (IoT) and blockchain to become more efficient and provide a continuous service.

The ultimate goal is to ease the ports' energy transition towards a zero-emission infrastructure.

We interviewed Estefania Sanles, Innovation Project Leader, Port of Barcelona to learn more about the Ports' plans.

Q: What is the ambition of the Port of Barcelona? Can you summarise it in one sentence?

А: Be the SMARTest logistic hub in the MED

Q: Barcelona has been a vital maritime, trade and logistics hub in Spain for centuries. What is the current situation of the maritime cluster in the city & region?

А: The future initiatives at the Port of Barcelona aim to solve the ports' real problems. For this reason, innovation aligns with the strategy. Our main goal is to achieve sustainability of the port at the economic, environmental and social level without losing sight of a broad vision of the port. The port's digitalisation project includes 54 different initiatives. Half of them were finalised in the last few years. We approved a Systems Plan that lays the foundations for the port of the future and an Innovation plan to establish the management structures for innovation in Barcelona.

Q: Who are the key partners with which you collaborate and what are their efforts in supporting innovation?

А: We collaborate on innovation, digitalisation and energy transition with ports such as Antwerp, Busan, Hamburg, Montreal, Los Angeles and Rotterdam. Recently we organised the SmartPorts. Peers of the Future event. It is an international event, where the worlds' leading ports present their latest innovations. We are also part of ChainPort, the association for port technology benchmarking coordinated by Hamburg. We also take part with other Spanish and international ports in subsidised European projects:

  • Core LNgas hive (with Algeciras, Bilbao, Cartagena, Ferrol, Gijón, Huelva, Melilla, Santander, Tarragona, Tenerife, Valencia and Vigo);
  • Ealing (with Gijón, Leixoes, Huelva, Valencia, Azores, Cork, Dublin, Venice, Trieste, Koper, Ancona, Trieste, Rafina, Burgas, Varna and Constanta)
  • Pioneers (with Antwerp, Constanta and Venlo)

to name a few examples.

Although ports collaborate, the solutions do not depend only on them and must include the entire logistics chain. That is why it is very challenging to agree on internationally valid standards.

Q: What are the future trends you see disrupting the mobility industry? How is Barcelona and the Port of Barcelona preparing for the maritime, trade and logistics of the future?

A: Our goal is to continue the digitalisation process of the port by carrying out the actions of the digital transformation plan. The most relevant of them are the update of our PCS, Portic, the creation of a new railway control centre, the optimisation of maritime traffic management processes and the deployment of the port's digital twin.

At the technological level, we will put in place a new communications infrastructure compatible with 5G. We will also increase the use of image recognition and artificial intelligence technologies.

In terms of innovation, we will manage better innovative initiatives and improve the collaboration between startups and port companies. The ultimate goal is to make Barcelona a benchmark for innovation in Maritime Logistics and the Blue Economy.

Q: What are your current efforts in supporting the local mobility tech ecosystem? What are your key initiatives to boost innovation?

A: We aim to achieve environmental, economic and social sustainability of the Port of Barcelona. On economic sustainability, the Plan aims to achieve €70 billion in foreign trade passing through the port by 2025. We aim to electrify 50% of container and ro-ro docks. Also, we plan to have network and OPS (onshore power supply) connections that will allow ships to turn off their engines when moored in the port. From a social sustainability point of view, the Plan is to increase human capital to 40,000 people working daily.

Achieving these goals will help realise the vision defined in the new Strategic Plan — to become a SMART logistics hub.

With "The SMARTest logistic hub in the MED" means that the port will establish itself as a space where all means of transport converge.