Aerial view of the Port of Jebel Ali, the busiest port in the Middle-East
ID 168394024 © Alexey Novikov | Dreamstime.com

DP World is accelerating its digital logistics programmes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the widespread disruption since January, the terminal operator warned last week that the rush to diversify and shorten supply chains posed a new set of risks to cargo owners.

However, according to DP World’s chief technology officer, Mike Bhaskaran, the pressure to mitigate future disruption is also forcing a digital transformation.

He told The Loadstar: “Companies from the retail, automotive and perishables sectors are facing pressure to re-evaluate their supply chains so they can mitigate against disruption, optimise their decision-making, improve cost efficiencies and gain better visibility of their products.

“The logistics industry must digitise at pace, if it is to effectively cater to the demands of the post-Covid trade economy.”

DP World has rolled-out a number of digital initiatives this year, which appear to tie-in with the company’s vertical integration across the end-to-end logistics chain, such as the acquisitions of shortsea carriers Unifeeder and Feedertech.

“Any one stage of the supply chain represents a myriad of digital systems that should work in tandem, but too often do not talk to each other,” explained Mr Bhaskaran.

“As we are seeing in the manufacturing sector, those making smart use of physical assets are managing to stay resilient in the wake of the pandemic. In logistics, leveraging physical infrastructures with digital capability can yield powerful results, allowing cargo owners to move their goods quickly, safely and efficiently.”

In April, DP World launched the Digital Freight Alliance, an online association for “verified” freight forwarders, which Mr Bhaskaran said provided “a new suite of integrated tools, routes and services enabling them to move cargo across sea, land, and air all on one platform”.

DP World has also acquired shipping marketplaces SeaRates, LandRates and AirRates, which allow customers to “move cargo from anywhere, to anywhere, at the click of a mouse”.

“Streamlining a diverse range of products into one integrated, tailored solution is a core tenet of how we approach digitising logistics at DP World,” added Mr Bhaskaran.

He also highlighted the company’s decision to join the Maersk and IBM-developed blockchain group TradeLens, which includes 110 ports and terminals, 15 customs authorities, shipping lines and intermodal providers.

“Integration will give us greater visibility of container flows across multiple carriers and enable us to reduce time-consuming manual processes for our customers,” explained Mr Bhaskaran.

In Dubai, the digitalisation of DP World’s flagship Jebel Ali port continued last week with the launch of a new fleet of autonomous internal vehicles. According to Mr Bhaskaran, the new handling equipment will aid operational efficiency and the utilisation of AI-driven solutions for customers.

“Looking longer-term, I am excited to continue developing projects such as BoxBay, a highly intelligent high-bay storage system that will store containers up to eleven storeys high, delivering the capacity of a conventional terminal in one-third of the surface area,” he added.

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