Port of Ploče to become first smart port in Croatia

Author: Editorial
event 22.05.2024.
Foto: Port of Ploče

In 30 months, the largest domestic sea port at the top of the port business will also become the first smart one thanks to the installation of a private 5G SA network.

Cooperation between the company Markoja and Ploče Port Authority resulted in the project “Enhancing public services of Ploce Port Authority via implementing 5G connectivity”, worth around 1.27 million euros, of which 70 percent come from EU funds. It is the only project from Croatia selected for co-financing by the European Commission in the amount of €958,125 from the 5G for Smart Communities (5GSC) fund, as part of the second round of CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) Digital – intended for the introduction of a safe, secure and sustainable 5G network in EU member states.

Strategic importance of Ploče Port

The Port Authority of Ploče was founded in 1997 to manage, develop and use the port of Ploče, which was declared a port of exceptional national economic interest for Croatia. Its mission is to ensure the development of the port and turn it into a competitive location that provides fast, quality, reliable, safe, cost-effective, and productive services, with special attention its impact on the local community and economy.

The main activities of the Port Authority include caring for the port area, ensuring safe port traffic, coordinating concessionaires, and managing the free port zone. Concessionaires, like Port of Ploče, perform key services such as loading, unloading, storage, and cargo handling.

The Port of Ploče, located on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea along the E-65 highway, is a key point for the transport of goods to Central, Western and Eastern Europe. It is connected by railway and route E-73, part of Corridor 5C (Budapest-Osijek-Sarajevo-Ploče) which in a broader sense connects the Baltic with the Adriatic. This connection plays a vital role in the economic integration of Europe. The port is also a complex system in which Port Authority must ensure the conditions for the smooth operation of all concessionaires and stakeholders (customs, police, firefighters, ambulance, transport agencies, truck drivers and other users), including the provision of infrastructure, internet connectivity and coordination of all processes within the port area.

Problems, solutions, end goal

The Port of Ploče is a universal port that annually transports large volumes of cargo and has significant infrastructure, including multiple terminals for different types of cargo. However, the analysis of the current situation found that the existing system can be further improved, especially in the context of traffic coordination, IT support for the integration of all entities, optimal organization of port operations, and provision of an adequate security system and environmental quality measuring.

To solve these problems, use cases involving smart cameras, a sensor system and a dedicated IT platform are proposed, with the aim of improving coordination, surveillance, record keeping, and security within the port as well as enabling better management of cargo and the port area.

The goal of the SmartPortPloce project is to increase the level and quality of public services provided by Ploče Port Authority by deploying a private 5G network in the port area, enabling superior connectivity and large data processing and transfer, which are essential for precise and fast analytics. With the implementation of this project, the Port of Ploče will become the first smart port in Croatia connected by a 5G network. This requires process automation and sensors, which will change the way the port works, all with the aim of achieving additional competitiveness of the port and further reducing its carbon footprint.

Markoja’s role & use cases

As part of this project, Markoja d.o.o., leading Croatian provider of network and infrastructure telecommunications solutions, will install the network infrastructure and associated equipment for the deployment a private 5G SA (Standalone) network in the Port of Ploče area, and develop and demonstrate three innovative data-intensive use cases:

  • Real-Time Locating System (RTLS)
  • cargo manipulation surveillance and record keeping
  • incident prevention.

The Real-Time Locating System (RTLS) will enable precise tracking of vehicles within the Port of Ploče from their entry and movement to parking. The automated system will optimize work processes at the port with traffic monitoring and parking organization to prevent vehicles from ending up in the wrong place with regard to the cargo they are carrying or the surrounding cargo (e.g. dangerous goods). This use case also includes shore-based sensors and smart cameras to geolocate ships and monitor weather conditions, sea changes and movements, which will deliver information to the operator to enable faster and safer vessel berthing activities.

Cargo manipulation surveillance and record keeping will improve daily port operations through accurate cargo tracking. The implementation of an advanced system of smart cameras, sensors and drones will enable cargo identification, quantity measurement and record keeping, increasing the efficiency, security and precision of monitoring key operations at the port.

Incident prevention and management includes fire detection sensors, thermal imaging cameras, air and water quality sensors and a local weather station to measure wind and humidity. These systems enable a quick and precise reaction in case of fire or sea and air pollution. They will also be connected to existing software platforms, enabling the exchange of data with key institutions such as firefighters, ambulances and police via the 5G network.

Expectations and results

“The deployment of a private 5G (SA) network will eventually enable the implementation of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, computer vision, and augmented reality”, points out Boris Markoja, director and founder of the company Markoja“and all with the aim of optimizing traffic and logistics in the port area, increasing the overall security of all stakeholders in the port and improving prevention – in line with the ESG approach to business as well our ‘5E’ values: energy , economy, ecology, ethics and esthetics.” Markoja d.o.o. is the owner of 5G spectrum at the regional level in nine Croatian counties, including full coverage in Dubrovnik-Neretva (80 MHz), and actively participates in the creation of a private 5G network market for various industry verticals and smart communities.

To mark the start of the project, a kick-off conference was held in March at Ploče Community Center, welcoming Ploče Port Authority, Markoja, Port of Ploče, Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Croatia, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER), and European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) representatives. Hrvoje Livaja, President of the Management Board at Port of Ploče, which will be the beneficiary of this project, said that “the implementation of 5G technology will enable Port of Ploče to run business processes faster and with less impact on the environment. In addition, we will operate more safely because the process automation and sensors will provide better incident prevention. I am proud that the Port of Ploče will be the first Croatian smart port connected by 5G technology.”

After the completion of the project, the Ploče Port Authority will be the sole owner of the installed infrastructure, while the owner/concessionaire of the 5G spectrum will remain Markoja d.o.o. For the realization of this project, the Zagreb company will provide the spectrum to Port Authority free of charge.


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