Ports could be regarded as a vital economic hub for a city and thus its country. Without ports the international trade, import and export, would not be achievable. While also planes can be used to transport goods across long distances and the ocean, it is way more expensive than ships and additionally, ships are able to carry bigger as well as more cargo. This makes them an efficient means of transport albeit not timewise.
The sheer amount of goods that enters and exits ports on a daily basis in enormous and demands a highly effective and complex logistics system. First, the arrival and the departure of ships have to be organized and planned so that no “traffic jams” and accidents occur. For this aspect ship ports are not so different from airports. Second, the ships have to be loaded and unloaded with heavy and big containers that ask for a variety of transportation vehicles, which also make a large number of highly skilled, licensed operators necessary. Most notably among those vehicles are the big container cranes (figure 1) that move along the wharf on rails, parallel to the docking site for the ships. They are the heart for moving the big containers from the port area to the ship’s cargo area.
It is of course necessary to load the right containers onto the correct ship which asks for a highly sophisticated and, ideally, digital logistics system (http://www.hafen-wismar.de/de/seehafen_wismar/digitalisierung) which also has to take the import and export regulations into account. Therefore, customs and border control (figure 2) are also implemented in the complete logistics process of ports.
Ports are also part of a multimodal transport system since the goods that leave or enter the port have to be further carried by other means of transport including trains or trucks.
Here again, it is crucial to make sure that the cargo is loaded onto the correct truck or train in order for it to reach its desired destination.
All these aspects make ports an extremely busy place for logistics and therefore also a big challenge.