A new programme that aims to bring smarter tech to North East ports has been launched.

Digital and industry experts, academia, regional authorities and surrounding ports will seek to develop distinct satellite-based solutions and digital programmes as part of the ‘Smart Port North East Testbed’.

The testbed will use technologies such as AI, data analytics, unmanned marine vessels, and drones to enable ports to become more intelligent, and examine ways of speeding up trade, increasing efficiency and reliability, reducing costs, tracking cargo, improving security and protecting the environment.

The programme has been designed to boost trade and foster economic growth and is the first initiative of Situational Awareness Information National Technology Service (SAINTS), recently launched by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence and operated by Business Durham.

“Ports play a vital role in the regional and national economy, providing trading gateways to the rest of the world, with a massive impact on local supply chains and communities,” said Catherine Johns, Innovation Director at Business Durham.

“The launch of SAINTS illustrates the important role the region’s fast-growing satellite and space sector can play in finding solutions to local issues and developing them to solve global problems in a sustainable way.”

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The Port of Berwick, Port of Blyth, Port of Sunderland, Teesport and Port of Tyne are taking part in the programme.

“Satellites have been providing services for the maritime economy for many years, with advanced technology for navigation and communications the norm in the sector,” added Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult.

“But as international trade continues to grow unabated, this initiative from SAINTS is an exciting new opportunity for UK companies to make significant technological advances for ports, and show what is possible from a combination of satellite data, terrestrial measurements and AI.”