Louisiana launches ‘smart port’ initiative

(Courtesy Port NOLA)

Louisiana is launching a smart port initiative that will streamline operations and improve safety through real-time data shared by port administrators, tenants, shippers, and warehouse, cargo and ground transportation providers.

Louisiana Economic Development is coordinating the smart port initiative with The Water Institute of the Gulf and the Port of New Orleans.

The Water Institute of the Gulf will guide technical solutions for the project, with the Port of New Orleans providing seed funding and serving as the pilot port for the project. LED is pursuing federal infrastructure funding to complete the project. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the project during a visit Monday by FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor to the Water Campus in Baton Rouge, where the Water Institute is based.

In the initial smart port phase, the Water Institute of the Gulf will install data sensors on tugboats and other vessels navigating the Port of New Orleans district. Sensors will detect sediment levels in shallow areas of the Mississippi River to promote safety and provide intelligence for future dredging decisions. Through a cooperative endeavor agreement signed Monday, the Port of New Orleans is providing $125,000 to the Water Institute to complete this initial project over a two-month period.

A second phase will digitally connect container depots, road transporters, dock terminals, shipping lines, warehouses and cargo operators to seamlessly coordinate the port’s supply chain. While this smart port phase will create a unified digital command at the New Orleans port and on the Water Campus, the project envisions the model being applied to ports across the state in the future. Louisiana Economic Development is pursuing federal funds to advance this second phase of the project.

“Louisiana’s Lower Mississippi River ports make up the most significant maritime complex in the world,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Beginning with New Orleans, we plan to make our ports safer and more efficient through a digitally connected infrastructure. Smart ports mean more efficient operations for all businesses, and they also provide security against virtual and physical threats. With the Water Institute’s expertise, we can design a smarter infrastructure that befits our world-class port system.”

The smart port initiative provides a foundation for future Water Campus expansion, including a planned Hurricane and Flood Risk Center that would provide support to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Louisiana National Guard and other emergency management partners. That risk center, in a third phase of the smart port initiative, would model data to enhance preparation for, and response to, coastal and inland flooding events.