Futuristic ports: pilot schemes explore use of 5G and hydrogen fuel to develop ports of tomorrow

Tue 23 Jun 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

future ports

The ports of tomorrow could be connected through 5G networks and fuelled by hydrogen if two new pilot schemes in Europe fulfil their promise.

Research into the potential uses of 5G for connecting ports with transport and logistics industries is underway in Antwerp.

At the same time, a new EU-funded ‘H2ports’ project – which increases a terminal’s energy efficiency by using hydrogen as fuel – will arrive in Valencia by early 2021.

5G in Antwerp

The ‘5G Blueprint’ project brings port authorities, businesses, academics and government departments for transport and infrastructure in Antwerp together.

They will investigate “how transport and logistics can be made more efficient with the aid of remote control (tele-operation) technology”, reports World Cargo News.

The research will look at the exchange of real-time data between vehicles, terminals and head offices using telecommunication technologies including 5G.

The exploratory work could result in ports or head offices being able to remotely steer and support vehicles and vessels on the road or out at sea, with the technologies also used across borders.

Hydrogen power

H2Ports – which receives funding from the EU, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research – is looking at ways in which hydrogen power and fuel cell technologies can be used to increase energy efficiency and decarbonisation at port terminals.

According to the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association, a fuel cell is “a device that generates electricity through an electrochemical reaction, not combustion” – in effect, it uses hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, heat and water.

The technology is viewed as a potential alternative to fossil fuels in efforts to reduce emissions amid concerns about climate change, and H2Ports is piloting its use in port handling equipment in Europe.

Valencia pilot

H2Ports will pilot a new ‘Fuel Cell Reach Stacker’ at MSC Terminal Valencia – one of three container terminals operating in the Port of Valencia.

Reach stackers are vehicles used for handling intermodal cargo containers in small or medium-sized ports.

According to H2Ports, the new Reach Stacker fuel cell will be able to support “continuous operations while providing zero emissions and achieving comparable full shift performance to a conventional Reach Stacker powered with a diesel engine.”