Digital Twin in Ports and Terminals – a Recap of the Discussion at PEMA’s AGM 2023

At the Annual General Meeting of PEMA, held on 25-26 April 2023 in Hamburg, Carsten Eckert and Torsten Neubert from HPC gave a presentation on "Digital Twin in Ports and Terminals". In their presentation, they defined a digital twin as a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes, synchronized at a specified frequency and fidelity. In their view, digital twins can be used to visualize the current state of a system, control the system, and simulate the expected reaction of the system.

The speakers discussed the various ways in which digital twins can be used, such as onboard integration of smart sensors with intelligent controllers, graphical condition monitoring, alarm management, and integration of plants and assets with surrounding systems. Digital twin systems of assets can be combined and integrated to form a digital twin of a plant, a port, a city, etc.

The areas of application for digital twins in the industry were discussed, including technical plant monitoring, automated sensor-based maintenance, facility management, control electric energy consumption, peak power cutting, energy balancing, integration with onshore power supply, condition monitoring, integration with crane equipment, and others.

As an example of a digital twin for a ship-to-shore crane, which involved measurement and analysis of electric consumption and other parameters from ship-to-shore cranes to build up a digital twin system for the terminal. Another example was given for the digital twin for energy management, which is required for electrification of cranes and other equipment, energy recovery from cranes, reactive energy, battery technology, photovoltaic plants in the port, wind generators, and upcoming hydrogen production projects.

The speakers also discussed the use cases for a simulation-based digital twin, which are of strategic nature when major changes in the system or infrastructure are targeted, such as new equipment, new control strategies, new terminals, new roads, or of operational nature, for production/staff planning.

An example of a digital twin based on simulation was given for the HHLA Fresh project in which electric automated guided vehicles (AGVs) support grid stability. This is done by taking some AGVs out of operation and use their battery capacity as part of the European Frequency Containment Reserve (FCR). A digital twin of the terminal is used to validate seamless terminal operations considering the reduced number of available AGVs and charging points.

Finally, the speakers discussed the digital twin-based port master planning, The idea is to change port master planning from a discrete project, which is executed every 5 - 10 years at an enormous time and cost, to a continuous process. The digital twin of the port includes all relevant data regarding topology of port areas, traffic infrastructure, and traffic scenarios. The speakers encouraged the use of the digital twin as the single source of truth for all strategic and tactical planning activities.

In conclusion, the experts emphasized that digital twins in different forms will be an increasing part of port and terminal operations in the future. Open interfaces will help to let assets and other systems be part of digital twins and to develop complex digital twin systems for various purposes. The further distribution of telemetrics (5G) will support sensor integration with SCADA systems and reinforce the potential to build digital twins.

For more information, please reach out to Carsten Eckert.