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Leading the way for UK ports in the digital age

Dover’s journey to becoming the UK’s most seamless, sustainable and tech-enabled port.

For more than 400 years from James I’s Royal Charter in 1606 to the first Roll-on Roll-off ferry berth in 1953 and the arrival of the new hybrid ferry in 2023, Dover has established its position as the leading innovative logistics hub for UK-Europe trade. Today, more than 2 million trucks annually transport trade worth £144 billion through 130 ferry movements every day, 364 days per year.

As the world has changed, Dover has actively adapted to meet the challenges and embraced the opportunities of the age. Today, by setting an uncompromisingly ambitious vision to deliver world-class travel, trading, and visitor experiences as the UK’s most seamless, sustainable, and tech-enabled port, the Port is driving innovation and closing the gap every day to meeting that vision.  

Harnessing Digital Technology

We are delivering our vision by harnessing digital technology and innovative conceptual thinking to capture the scale of each challenge, to plot their complex inter-relationships and then test thousands of virtual solutions to optimise massive investment in new infrastructure. A UKRI-sponsored feasibility study has already identified the potential of an AI-driven digital twin for Dover’s harbour. This digital twin can help reconfigure the harbour to mitigate extreme tidal conditions and provide shipmasters with an immersive pilotage tool. By improving navigational safety, this technology helps ensure 24-hour operations and accommodation of the next generation of larger and environmentally safer vessels.

Smart and Digital Borders

As we navigate the challenges of processing more people and vehicles in an increasingly complex supply chain with higher border security demands, the Port of Dover is embracing innovation to significantly improve its ability to process traffic ever more swiftly and securely. Utilising advanced cameras and sensors combined with automated systems working in tandem to streamline border and custom checks, reducing wait times for tourist and freight traffic, while biometric identification and facial recognition technologies facilitate passenger processing. This is the Port’s ambition, and we wish to work with UK and French authorities to create a smart and seamless border experience that not only bolsters Dover’s reputation as a world-class port but also drives economic growth through smoother international trade and travel.

Collaborative Partnerships and Research

Achieving our ambitious objectives demands access to the best skills available and we are therefore pioneering long term collaborative partnerships with world-leading UK academic research institutions. These partnerships are already driving the development of cutting-edge solutions by leveraging the expertise of the universities in combination with the port as a live testing ground for innovation in AI, Machine Learning, and digital twinning.

Our vision for a smart, seamless, and sustainable port is fast becoming a reality, but this is a vision that cannot be embarked upon in isolation. Collaboration and partnerships form the bedrock of our strategy. With targeted government support UK ports can continue to lead as innovative and sustainable maritime hubs, driving economic growth and a greener, more efficient future.