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PSA Tuas Port pioneers automation transformation with event-driven architecture

Ho Vee Leung
Ho Vee Leung  • 5 min read
PSA Tuas Port pioneers automation transformation with event-driven architecture
EDA is enabling the Singapore port to streamline its supply chain and provide enhanced support to its valued customers in managing cargo flows. Photo: Bloomberg
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Amidst the rapid expansion of global trade, ports today face mounting pressure to enhance their capabilities and streamline operations. While once sufficient, long-standing manual processes are now inadequate in meeting the escalating demands of the supply chain industry. These include real-time tracking, customer expectations, the ever-important search for efficiency and productivity, and profit growth.

In recognising the need for operational resilience and adaptability to maintain a competitive edge and accommodate future growth, PSA has set out on a mission to build the world’s largest fully automated port. Known as Tuas Port, the project marks a significant milestone for Singapore as it ushers in a new era for PSA Singapore’s operations, and reaffirms the nation’s stature as a global maritime hub.

The first phase of Tuas Port opened in September 2022, with the entire port to be completed by 2040. When completed, Singapore’s handling capacity will be doubled to 65 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) and the port will be able to service vessels more than 400m in length. It will also work in tandem with the airport, to strengthen the current connection between the nation’s air and seaports, allowing the economy to benefit from greater trade volumes.

In the meantime, Tuas Port has now grown to eight berths, which have increased Singapore’s handling capacity amidst the supply chain crisis of past years. Most of the work at the port is performed by unmanned driverless vehicles known as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) while creating new job opportunities for the 500 people who currently work there.

Aligned with its goal of becoming the world’s largest automated container terminal, the port also plans to implement artificial intelligence, data analytics, robotics and other applications to bolster the nation’s maritime prominence.

To support this massive undertaking, PSA turned to an event-driven architecture (EDA) platform — underpinned by Solace — to orchestrate the port’s automated operations and maintenance activities.

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EDA is an approach where interconnected systems, devices, and processes exchange real-time event-based information such as vessel arrivals, container movements, and equipment status changes through an interconnected web of event brokers. This “event mesh” empowers ports to optimise their resource allocation, make informed decisions ahead of time, and effectively streamline workflows, which can ultimately boost their overall productivity and effectiveness across their port operational processes.

Elevating port efficiency through EDA

At the Tuas Port, over 200 AGVs transport containers within the port 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Regular transmission of instructions to each AGV is crucial for port operations, and this is achieved through the adoption of Solace PubSub+ to provide timely and reliable event delivery at scale.

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By harnessing the power of EDA, Tuas Port gains the ability to process vital data as events unfold, facilitating timely and informed decision-making. Acting as a resilient “shock absorber”, EDA ensures the seamless flow of information, guaranteeing in-order delivery of data, even during temporary disconnections or message flow surges.

Unlike the traditional request-response systems, EDA empowers Tuas Port with real-time data processing and instant communication capabilities, which ensures uninterrupted operations and dependable communication channels, bolstering Tuas Port’s overall efficiency. For example, with port operations spanning various hybrid environments, devices, and applications, a holistic and comprehensive event mesh is required to distribute data in real time, ensuring that each one can perform effectively.

PSA expects to more than double the AGV fleet as the Tuas Port evolves through its subsequent development phases. It also foresees the impact of EDA continuing to reshape port operations, setting a new standard for efficiency, adaptability, and customer satisfaction in the maritime industry.

Unlocking transformation with EDA adoption

Naturally, such a transformative opportunity does not happen without some challenges. During Phase One of the development at Tuas Port, several complexities emerged, including designing AGVs to have an “always on” communications design able to handle faults at various layers of the technology stack. This was eventually achieved through frameworks provided by Solace to enable full control over the switchover process. Navigating these obstacles necessitates strategic collaboration with our technology partners, seeking solutions that cater to PSA’s requirements.

As Tuas Port’s automation progresses and real-time data generation is amplified, the existing networks and architectures must be resilient and scalable to accommodate the influx of information. By addressing integration complexities and investing in a robust infrastructure, we can then fully unlock the potential of EDA and drive greater efficiency and customer satisfaction in the global landscape, particularly as Tuas Port embarks on three more development phases.

According to Robert Chin, PSA’s assistant vice president for IT Governance & Infra Planning, it is a complex undertaking to reliably orchestrate operations across container handling equipment connected over cellular networks, Wi-Fi and other networks reliably in the port environment. Solace continues to be alongside PSA in delivering a robust and simple EDA platform for data communications as we continue our vision to deliver reliable operations at scale.

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Leading the maritime industry into the future

With the successful integration of EDA, PSA Tuas Port has set the new standard for port automation as the world’s largest automated container terminal. This achievement highlights the pivotal role of EDA in reshaping the maritime industry and connecting communities beyond the port, both physically and digitally integrated with local and global supply chain ecosystems.

Moving forward, PSA Tuas Port is well-positioned to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as the maritime landscape continues to evolve and automate.

Ho Vee Leung is the regional head IT for South East Asia at PSA Singapore

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