Top Smart Ports

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Top Smart Ports - Worldwide 1

The Port of Hamburg, Port of Rotterdam, Port of Valencia, Port of Antwerp, and Port of Amsterdam are the top five ports worldwide (outside of the U.S. and Canada) that have adopted smart ports technology.

Port of Hamburg

  • The Port of Hamburg in Germany employs "state-of-the-art di­gi­ta­l in­tel­li­gence" that has delivered "huge efficiency improvements."
  • The technologies adopted by the Port of Hamburg include the following.
    • Real-time navigation — This technology ensures that traffic in the port flows efficiently and anyone traveling around the port benefits from "parking and in­fra­struc­ture ­in­for­ma­tio­n, closures of the movable bridges, as well as the latest information on important operations."
    • Renewable energies — A land-side cruiser liner power supply that is sourced from renewable energies has reduced the port's environmental impact.
    • Intelligent railway point — Sensors have been attached to frequently-used points along the harbor railway that transmit real-time data to a central IT location. This has allowed the port to "identify maintenance work or re­pai­rs at an early stage, thereby avoiding downtime."
    • Mobile all-purpose sensor — The port is currently developing a mobile GPS sensor that will forward location data to the IT system. It will be used for fleet management and other measurements like "tem­pe­ra­ture, wind speed and direction, air pollution and the flow of the Elbe."
    • Smart maintenance — Tablets and smartphones monitor the port's infrastructure. The devices automatically send measurements to the IT system, "where the data is processed, stored and edited." The goals are to make maintenance more efficient and to improve notifications.
    • Virtual depot — The virtual depot allows the port to "optimize the movement of empty con­tai­ners between packing ­companies," which reduces unnecessary trips with empty containers.
    • Port Monitor — The Port Monitor software keeps all port stakeholders informed about data such as "elec­tro­nic cards, vessel ­po­si­tio­ns, water level­ da­ta, berths, current construction sites, planned dives and bridge heights and widths."
    • E-mobility — The port is currently exploring ways to incorporate electric vehicles into its operations. Charging infrastructure construction is already underway as the port reviews "ways of extending e-Mo­bi­li­ty to passenger and freight traffic in the harbor area."
    • Logistics — the smartPort logistic app allows trucks to reserve parking spaces ahead of time and identify open spaces if they have not reserved one.
  • These smart technologies have helped the Port of Hamburg maintain its leading position in Germany and Europe and have reduced the port's impact on the environment by reducing unnecessary trips and using renewable energies.
  • Additionally, the port aims to use its connected port initiatives to double the capacity of the port by 2025 without increasing the size of the port.

Port of Rotterdam

  • The Port of Rotterdam teamed up with IBM to develop a centralized dashboard to allow the collection of real-time data from smart sensors.
  • The sensors were installed across a 42-kilometer stretch of the port's "quay walls, roads, and mooring posts."
  • The sensor data has been used to "used to reduce wait times, determine optimal times for ships to dock, load and unload, and enable more ships to enter the port."
  • Additionally, the Port of Rotterdam uses the "Portbase Port Community System," which "is a combination of an application layer, platform an information database" that has saved money and time through " bilateral connections and information exchange."
  • The Port of Rotterdam also has a "fully automated deep sea terminal with automated guided vehicles."

Port of Valencia

  • The Port of Valencia installed black boxes on "200 cranes, straddle carriers, trucks and forklifts" that collect a variety of data "such as their location or energy consumption, which could help terminal staff find ways to reduce idle time."
  • The information from the black boxes is analyzed in real time and shared with terminal staff to "identify operating bottlenecks and initiate appropriate action."
  • The anticipated results of the black boxes include lowering operating costs by 10% by "reducing equipment idle time and minimizing energy use."
  • Additionally, this port installed a smart illumination system that only light up when vehicles come in the vicinity of the port, which has cut energy consumption by 80%.

Port of Antwerp

  • The Port of Antwerp has centered its operational improvement plan on NxtPort, an "information sharing system."
  • The goal for its use of NxtPort, which allows the port to share information with companies like BASF, MSC, Katoen Natie, DP World and PSA, is to " become a self-sustaining data-commercialization company that will gather, centralize, store, analyze and exchange data from a wide variety of logistic actors."
  • Eventually, customs, governmental agencies, food quality control, and IT app developers will be able to access the information on the platform as well.
  • The port also plans to monetize the data it is receiving from the system, which will help "individual users reduce costs through better planning." Moreover, not only will this generate more income for the port, but it will also improve logistics, lower truck exhaust emissions, and reduce the number of containers in depots.
  • The Port of Antwerp is also currently exploring the use of blockchain for container collection, which will allow "digital rights" to be transferred from one party to another, which means only one party can pick up the container, rather than anyone with a PIN number. This will reduce fraud by validating the container transfers.

Port of Amsterdam

  • The Port of Amsterdam has several digital applications that are used to improve port efficiencies and increase fundraising.
  • The I Am Port app "offers real time information on ships locations and itineraries in the port" and visitors can find information on departures and arrivals and the measurements of each ship in the port.
  • Its Port Data app provides the "historical market shares of the throughput of cargo of eleven ports in the Le Havre — Hamburg range in order to promote the idea of data sharing."
  • A third app gives users the ability to tour the port using virtual reality technology, which is designed to increase local support for the port.

Research Strategy

Top ports worldwide, excluding the U.S. and Canada, were selected using the criteria of those that were mentioned most often by reputable publications such as BCG, Deloitte, and industry publications. The ways in which the technologies have improved services and efficiencies for each port were provided as available. Some smart initiatives have only been implemented a short time and in those cases, we have given expected results instead of actual results.
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Top Smart Ports - Worldwide 2

The Port of Singapore, Port of Barcelona, Port of Seville, Port of Algeciras, and Port of Livorna are five additional top ports worldwide (outside of the U.S. and Canada) that have adopted smart ports technology.

Port of Singapore

  • The Port of Singapore has taken steps to use smart technologies to improve land-side operations, particularly with its inland terminals and empty container depots.
  • Specialized booking facilities have improved the logistics of arriving trucks by implementing a truck appointment system.
  • The port also uses a GPS-based system to monitor the traffic on port access roads. This system "tracks truck movements, notifies terminals when vehicles are approaching key facilities, and provides directions on how to proceed."
  • Truckers use an in-cabin smartphone system that notifies them when their cargo is ready to be picked up and provides them with directions to their pickup point.
  • The smartphone system also allows cargo owners to track their containers, giving them the ability to monitor their containers' locations anywhere in the region.

Port of Barcelona

  • The Port of Barcelona uses the PortIC telematic platform, which connects the entire Port Community.
  • This smart platform ensures "coordinated management of all the services provided in the Port's waters (pilots, tugs, mooring, provisioning, etc.); and the storm forecasting system developed jointly with the national authority Puertos del Estado."
  • The port is also in the process of implementing a project to "collect Radar and AIS (Automatic Identification System) signals from vessels passing through the Port in order to anticipate possible incidents." This is expected to increase the port's safety.
  • The Ecocalculator, a tool in use at the Port of Barcelona, allows customers to "quantify their cargo's environmental footprint" and meet their environmental goals.
  • Barcelona's Container Tracking Application allows the port and container owners to track "the physical process of a container, from the moment the vessel arrives, when the container touches the ground, is processed by customs, leaves the terminal and other points."

Port of Seville

  • The Port of Seville has implemented a smart navigation system, which is designed to "optimize ship traffic and port operations."
  • Its smart navigation system is part of the TECNOPORT 2025 project and includes the eRiver Information and Optimization (eRIO) component that captures data from a network of sensors situated along the river.
  • The data obtained by these sensors includes environmental data as well as information about individual ships.
  • Seville has also implemented a system that uses IoT services for container tracking and railway traffic management.
  • Tracking solutions used at the Port of Seville include RFID tags, cellular, satellite, and Bluetooth technologies.

Port of Algeciras

  • The Port of Algeciras has implemented a centralized asset management system that allows for "3D visualization and management of geographic information technology-based (GIS) of the company to more efficiently manage the entire amount of information safety and maintenance operators of port handling."
  • The goal of this platform was to provide a single point of access for all port operation support systems. This would allow operators to analyze data and make more informed decisions based on real-time information.
  • Video surveillance, access control, port management, and system simulation were all combined into one system that is "capable of representing all events that occur in the port in an advanced control room" along with the relationships between these events.
  • Operators can also use augmented reality to project a 3D model of the port on a wall or screen so they can view the port and all information systems in real time.
  • The implementation of this integrated system has reduced the time spent to resolve issues by 35% and the associated costs by 25%.

Port of Livorno

Research Strategy

Top ports worldwide, excluding the U.S. and Canada, were selected using the criteria of those that were mentioned most often by reputable publications such as BCG, Deloitte, and industry publications. The ways in which the technologies have improved services and efficiencies for each port were provided as available. Some smart initiatives have only been implemented a short time and in those cases, we have given expected results instead of actual results.
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Top Smart Ports - US 1

The top five ports in the US that have embraced smart port technologies include the Port of Savannah, Port of Houston, Port of Long Beach, Port of Oakland, and Port of Everglades. Details regarding these ports have been provided below.

Port of Savannah

  • The Port of Savannah utilizes process automation technology in its operations. The port installed the automated terminal asset management system (ATAMS) in 2008.
  • The port’s Garden City Terminal has installed RFID tags in street trucks, which allows them to be tracked in real-time.
  • ATAMS improves the container hand-off process that occurs between yard cranes and street trucks. This optimization enables trucks to be automatically located and identified.
  • The primary benefits of ATAMS include improved worker safety, quicker turn times, and increased crane productivity.

Port of Houston

  • The Port of Houston is a primary container gateway in Texas. The port’s Bayport Terminal is regarded as the most environmentally sensitive and modern terminal in the United States Gulf coast.
  • The terminal has electronic data interchange capabilities including computerized inventory control systems. These systems track the location and status of individual containers.
  • The Bayport Terminal’s technologies have resulted in improved cargo activity. The environmental benefits of the terminal include the preservation of coastal habitat and wetlands.
  • The terminal is still being developed and is expected to handle 2.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) once it is fully complete.

Port of Long Beach

  • The port of Long Beach offers six container terminals and is the second busiest in the US.
  • The port's Long Beach Container Terminal at Middle Harbor is highly automated and considered the most advanced port facility in the US when it comes to technology.
  • The port launched the Middle Harbor Terminal Redevelopment Project in 2011, which resulted in over $650 million being invested in technology and equipment. The investments include over 70 automated guided container transport vehicles and 70 automated stacking cranes.
  • The containers at the terminal are fully automated and do not require any human operator. These advancements have led to reduced cargo turn times.

Port of Oakland

  • In 2018, the Port of Oakland launched the Oakland Portal, a gateway that enables access to seaport operations through a single point of entry.
  • The Oakland Portal offers a comprehensive digital view of terminal information, cargo, and container vessels under one platform without having to go through a number of websites.
  • The portal consolidates data from key marine terminals. The data includes cargo status, live camera views, and vessel schedules. Other additional functions include paying terminal fees, trucker appointments, and status updates on cargo.
  • The portal gives drivers increased transparency when it comes to the duration that it will take to collect and drop cargo. The portal also tracks the time it takes for drivers to transact at marine terminals. Furthermore, the Oakland Portal improves cargo flow by notifying truck drivers when terminals are full and highlights potential bottlenecks.

Port of Everglades

  • The Port of Everglades has an electronic validation program that enables shippers to send vehicle export documentation instead of submitting physical copies.
  • The validation program enables exporters to avoid personal visits to their local CBP trade office, which saves time and ensures that documents are processed swiftly.
  • In addition, the port launched a Mobile Passport Control (MPC) program in 2016, which is targeted towards cruise ship travelers.
  • The program is a Smartphone app that can expedite the entry process of a traveler into the US. The MPC enables travelers to give their biographic information before speaking to a CBP officer.

Research Strategy

To find the requested information, we first looked at the top ports in the United States listed in the Journal of Commerce Magazine. We then manually went through each port to find the ones that had smart port technologies using industry sites, such as Supply Chain Dive, Logistics Management, and Port Technology. We selected the top five based on their technology adoption of smart ports.

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Top Smart Ports - US 2

The additional leading smart ports in the US are the Port of Los Angeles, Port of New York and New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Port of Philadelphia, and ports operated by The Northwest Seaport Alliance.


Port of Los Angeles

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • The Port of Los Angeles uses the Port Optimizer software by General Electric (GE). The solution is cloud-based, powered by machine learning and industry expertise. It provides secure digitization of shipping data, offering real-time insights.
  • The Port Optimizer helps connect people with resources, predict and deal with changing conditions, and enhance communication between different stakeholders.
  • This results in better utilization of assets, higher throughput, and enhanced delivery performance.
  • Also, while the technology hasn't been deployed yet, the Port of Los Angeles partnered with the World Economic Forum for a blockchain-based toolkit and a road map to implement it. It is supposed to serve as a guide to make supply chains more secure and efficient through the use of distributed ledgers.

Port of New York and New Jersey

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • The Port of New York and New Jersey uses RFID transporters, optical character recognition, and "weight in motion" system to automatically read container numbers, as well as locate and recognize trucks.
  • It also has the Port Truck Pass site for data sharing between port operators, truckers, and ship lines. The combination of RFID technology and a unified data portal allows all interested parties to access the most accurate, real-time data seamlessly.
  • Thanks to those technologies, the efficiency and productivity of the port are improved. Transport companies and truck drivers can make better, more informed decisions, which results in reduced traffic inside the port.
  • Additionally, three of the port's terminals belong to Global Container Terminals Inc. (GCT). The company is a partner of the blockchain-based TradeLens platform.
  • It joined the system "to securely connect with supply chain partners including ocean carriers, beneficial cargo owners, and railways. It provides end-to-end supply chain information, facilitating seamless data sharing, collaboration and improved trade flows." Using blockchain also allows them to maintain supply chain transparency.

Port of Virginia

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • The Port of Virginia uses an automated Truck Reservation System, which they call "an enabling technology that has allowed us to increase landside productivity, smooth out the flow of trucks into the terminals throughout the day, and achieve record-breaking turn times in our port."
  • As of March 2019, the system, which requires some of the drivers to pick the time slots in which they will enter the port, resulted in a 16% turn time reduction at Norfolk International Terminals and a 32% turn time reduction at the Virginia International Gateway.
  • The implementation of the system was accompanied by the Automated Work Flow Data Model project. It included a radical innovation of the RFID technology used at Norfolk International Terminal and the Virginia International Gateway.
  • Additionally, it encompassed modernizing the whole data infrastructure, which became cloud-based. The change is further improving the efficiency of the terminals, decreasing traffic congestion and predicting potential issues.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance

  • The Northwest Seaport Alliance is "a marine cargo operating partnership" between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
  • Its website can be accessed here.
  • The ports of Seattle and Tacoma have the same data system, the eModal platform powered by Advent Technology Solutions.
  • The system's capabilities include making appointments, paying fees, checking cargo availability, and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) at the terminals.
  • It is also connected to the alliance's use of RFID technology since it is where the trucks can register for their RFID tag.
  • The Northwest Seaport Alliance uses those technologies to enhance the efficiency of the transport of containers through its ports.

Port of Philadelphia

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • One of the Port of Philadelphia's terminals is owned by Holt Logistics Corp. The company is using the blockchain-based TradeLens platform.
  • The company's business development manager says that the solution is meant to further modernize the Port of Philadelphia, lower the costs, and bring added value to customers.
  • The major issue within the shipping industry is that it generates large amounts of data and paperwork. With blockchain, data is processed more securely and efficiently, which results in "unlocking billions of dollars in value for stakeholders each year."

Research Strategy

At first, we attempted to find a pre-compiled list of top US smart ports or a report that would name those with the highest level of adoption of smart technologies. We searched through government sources and industry media, such as Port Strategy, Inbound Logistics, and JOC.

However, while we found some overview articles that named multiple smart ports, we didn't find any that listed the top players. Therefore, we decided to analyze those articles, as well as the list of top ports in the US, gather the potential key players and research their websites, press releases, local media from the states they are located in, as well as industry media for insights on their smart technologies adoption. We chose those for which the results were the most significant.
One of our sources is from 2017 (about the Port of Virginia's initiatives). However, we confirmed that the system is still in use. The article was used to provide more context around it.
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Top Smart Ports - Canada 1

Three top smart ports in Canada are the Port of Montreal, Port of Vancouver, and Port of Halifax. Additionally, the Port of Prince Rupert has implemented some noteworthy digital innovations.


Port of Montreal

  • The official website of the port can be found here.
  • It can be considered the top smart port in Canada because it is named among the most innovative ports in terms of using connected technology globally, along with the ports in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Hamburg.
  • The Port of Montreal provides innovative electronic navigation services. They allow pilots to easily connect with the Canadian Coast Guard’s MARINFO web portal, which gives immediate access to the most up-to-date operational data.
  • In addition, pilots can get to know the position of the vessel and other vessels in the area, as well as real-time data on tides and water levels thanks to the connection with the international Automatic Identification System (AIS).
  • The main benefit of introducing electronic navigation is making it easier for pilots to navigate the difficult area of the St Laurence River.
  • The port also uses big data, motion sensors, RFID technology, and cameras that are able to read license plates to monitor and manage arrivals and departures of lorries. It shares real-time insights with transport companies and their drivers to avoid too much traffic at its container terminals, as well as reduce its carbon footprint.
  • The communication between the port and transport companies and drivers happens through a dedicated mobile app, Trucking PORTal.
  • In 2018, the Port of Montreal joined the blockchain-based Maersk IBM TradeLens platform. It aims to facilitate freight transport, as well as make it more secure. The data that is sent to the platform "provides valuable organizational information and improved visibility of traffic flows for the Montreal supply chain."
  • It is worth noting that TradeLens uses Internet of Things devices and sensors for assessing the temperature and weight of the containers, even though those technologies weren't mentioned in the information.
  • The port has its own port innovation accelerator. So far, the initiative's main innovation is a 3D port modeling tool, created in partnership with PreVu3D and Ara Robotics. While its benefits haven't been fully assessed yet, it is meant to help optimize the space, improve the infrastructure, and allow virtual reality visits to the port.

Port of Vancouver

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • The port is using big data applications, which help to resolve supply chain issues and find efficient patterns.
  • The Port of Vancouver also offers the Port Dashboard, which includes real-time data for stakeholders, port users, and supply chain participants. It shares supply chain data through eHub app, provides trucks GPS data through GPS dashboard, as well as live video feeds from the port.
  • Also, one of its terminals, GCT Deltaport, is a part of blockchain-based TradeLens. The platform was implemented to minimize shipping delays, digitize all transactions, and make shipping transparent.

Port of Halifax

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • The port of Halifax is in the process of a digital transformation.
  • Its digital efforts have been awarded by the American Association of Port Authorities. It was a winner in the IT category.
  • The port has also joined blockchain-based TradeLens platform to "reduce costs, improve productivity, increase the speed of goods delivery, enhance security, and provide transparency."
  • Additionally, Halifax is constantly trying to modernize its data-collecting and sharing capabilities. In 2016, it improved its container tracking system to provide real-time data through automated updates and alerts.
  • It offers the Port Operations Centre through its website, sharing data with the whole community. Real-time updates on terminal gate metrics, weekly dwell time, predictive air gap, arrivals, departures, and any other special information can be accessed by cargo owners and shippers.
  • The digital system improves the efficiency of port operations and its intermodal freight transportation.

Port of Prince Rupert

  • The port's website can be accessed here.
  • While there is not enough information to consider the Port of Prince Rupert one of the top smart ports in Canada, in 2015, it was reported that it has a Port Enterprise System for more efficient data management.
  • It wasn't disclosed which technologies were used to create it. However, it gathers data from all port activities, benchmarks it against competitors, and provides insights for all stakeholders.
  • Additionally, in 2018, the company implemented an enterprise-wide Audio-Visual over Internet Protocol platform. It facilitates data sharing and visualization, allowing employees to easily add the information from their laptops and mobile phones or send it to the RGB laser overview video wall.
  • The solution improves the port's operational and communication capabilities, which is especially important in the time of its rapid growth. It also helps to respond rapidly during emergencies.

Research Strategy

We started our research for top smart ports in Canada by looking for Canadian ports that were covered by major port and maritime industry media sites, such as Port Technology, The Maritime Executive, and Seatrade Maritime News. We assumed that it was the most likely place to publish news about major Canadian ports implementing innovative technologies. However, the only port that frequently appeared in such sources in relation to smart technologies was the Port of Montreal.

Next, we analyzed government sources, especially government reports that talked about port Modernization, as well as websites for organizations that are promoting Smart Ports, like the École de Technologie Supérieure. We assumed that the most innovative ports would be described by those institutions. The most useful source we found was "Port Modernization Review" by the Association of Canadian Port Authorities. However, it only allowed us to discover the Port of Halifax's use of blockchain.

Finally, we found a list of all Canadian ports. We analyzed their websites, including "About" sections and annual reports. We also looked through local media sites and searched one more time through industry media, this time targeting articles about specific ports. We considered it the most efficient strategy for finding information about ports that are less known for their transformation into smart ports but still use nascent technologies. It allowed us to find the Port of Vancouver. We also discovered information on the Port of Prince Rupert's data management solution, though it isn't covered well enough to assess which nascent technologies it uses. While the source about Port of Prince Rupert's was outdated and there were no recent articles or press releases about its Port Enterprise System, we provided the information as helpful finding, along with one more case study about tech solutions used by the company.

We concluded that other Canadian ports either don't use smart technologies or don't make such information public, which is why it was impossible to make the list of five top smart ports in the country.
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Top Smart Ports - Canada 2

Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert now have the option to automate or semi-automate their operations after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada made an agreement with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association on a framework for addressing automation a requirement for the contract. This agreement was announced on May 30, 2019, after workers of Port of Vancouver went on a strike due to the pressing issues on the potential deep job losses to be caused by port automation. However, even after exhaustive research in the public domain, we could not find additional ports in Canada that have already embraced smart port technologies. Below are some relevant findings.

Relevant Findings

  • The Port of Montreal is working with Element AI, an AI firm based in Montreal, on predicting the turn time of a truck delivering or picking up a container. The project is now close to forecasting the turn time to "an accuracy of within ten minutes to the actual time," which is close to the requirement to making a reliable forecast according to Port of Montreal's vice president of operations, Daniel Dagenais.
  • Moody's Corporation, an investment rating firm, reported that there are 48 automated container terminals around the world, 18 of which are fully automated.
  • Port of Vancouver workers went on a strike in May this year because of the pressing issues of deep job losses to be caused by automation. According to a study by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), automation can eliminate 80 to 90 percent of the required human labor.
  • Taking into account the new jobs automation may create, the same study found that port automation is likely to eliminate 9,200 marine terminal jobs across British Columbia, which is equivalent to an income loss in the province of over $600 million annually.
  • Port of Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert now have the option of transitioning their operations to automated or semi-automated to accommodate the growing container volumes. This is after ILWU Canada made an agreement with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) on a framework for addressing automation a requirement for the contract. Both organizations agreed to end the employer lockout on May 30, 2019.

Research Strategy

To determine additional top five ports in Canada that have embraced smart ports technologies, we started our research by looking into press releases and media coverage that cover ports in Canada that have adopted any of the following: smart technology, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain. However, the only press releases and news articles we found only mentioned the ports that have been covered in the first part of this research: Port of Montreal, Port of Vancouver, Port of Halifax, and Port of Prince Rupert. We added some of the information we found through this research strategy as relevant findings above.

Next, we looked into companies in Canada that provide smart port technologies in the hope that they published some of their clients or customers on their websites. However, through this strategy, the closest we found is Konecranes' "Path to Port Automation." Although the company has an office in Canada, they did not mention any customers or clients on their websites. We also found a list of approved industry suppliers of port and terminal technology; however, this strategy was also futile as we did not find any Canadian port clients mentioned by these suppliers.

Lastly, we looked for forecasts of the adoption of smart port technologies in Canada as these reports sometimes mention key players in the industry or early adopters. However, the ports that were mentioned over and over again, such as Port of Montreal and Port of Vancouver, were already covered in the first part of this research. We still added some of the forecasts as relevant findings.

From Part 04