ESA title

Ports of the Future

  • Activity Feasibility Study
  • Opening date 19-02-2020
  • Closing date 31-05-2020

***Closing date extended***


The port industry and shipping in general is undergoing important structural changes driven by the need of innovation. Major drivers are the pressure to reduce operating and capital costs, and the movement towards energy transition, which means that new players are targeting their focus on renewable energies and alternative fuels. Digital technologies are extending the range of innovation possibilities providing opportunities across the entire value chain, for example big data analytics can allow a renewed vision of the supply chains as well as predictive maintenance and automation  which can reduce operational costs.

Ports of the future addresses not only the operations at the port but also the activities for the transport of people and goods, shipbuilding, off-shore energy, air and water quality monitoring, and more generally, any automation and security activities that support the efficacy of these practices. The evolving port environment presents a lot of opportunities for the European industry to come up with new and innovative commercial solutions enabled by space. 

ESA Space Solutions is therefore launching a new Invitation to Tender, to assess the technical feasibility and economic viability of sustainable space-based services addressing the evolution of the port ecosystem. Such services shall be aimed at ensuring people safety, environmental sustainability, long-term economic growth and water security amongst others. Any resulting study is  also intended to establish the roadmap for service implementation through one or more potential follow-on demonstration projects. 

For the purpose of this study, ESA Space Solutions have undertaken discussions with several key stakeholders presenting scenarios and related service features which are considered particularly relevant for them. Major user communities are the port operators, shipping lines operators, logistics operators, haulers, freight forwarders/third party logistics, cruise and ferry lines. The stakeholder communities will be involved in the study by providing feedback to the results and contributing with inputs towards potential follow-on demonstration projects. 


Potential services should:

  • Be enabled by space to support the evolution of the port of the future, including the use of imagery, radar technologies and weather data.  
  • Integrate space with terrestrial capabilities and other technologies as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to allow operators to reduce costs, risks, increase efficiency, connectivity, safety and security of port infrastructure.
  • Develop sustainable solutions to reduce pollution of the air, water and soil in relation to shipping and transport capabilities, waste production and consumption of energy. 

The following scenarios have been identified as key focus areas:

  • Port automation
  • Connected ports 
  • Port infrastructure improvement
  • Port safety and security 
  • Unmanned solutions
  • Environmental impacts and energy efficiency

New solutions and services related to port activities and operations include the monitoring of the port activities, monitoring and tracking of the vessels,  creation of mapping images and bathymetry data, support for anti-piracy and search and rescue, fisheries activities monitoring and protection, and services for environmental protection and enforcement. 


Space technologies can play an important role in conjunction with the deployment of novel technologies in the improvement of the port ecosystem. The utilisation of big data analytics, image-recognition algorithms, crowd-sourcing, etc. offers a wide range of opportunities for new services. 

Satellite navigation (SATNAV)
Satellite navigation (GNSS) provides an accurate location to track & trace deployed port operators, to guide to locations of interest, to operate and steer robotic devices, to navigate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAs), to geo-locate samples and to generate a precise timestamp. SatNav also provides accurate geolocalization of sensor data to be used for maintenance operations and location of incidents, along with the detection of anomalies. RPAs can be used as complementary solutions for monitoring purposes to fill the gap between space-borne acquisitions and when a higher spatial resolution is required.

SAT-AIS data are the main source of geo-localising vessels and their activity's patterns.

Satellite communications (SATCOM)
Satellite communications offer a unique alternative to the transmission of data through the terrestrial internet with the coordinating centre to and from remote locations where there is no terrestrial network or to cope with a large demand for bandwidth, e.g. for live streaming of images. Used as a primary communication means or as back-up to terrestrial networks, Satcom can therefore enhance communication network robustness and communication resilience.

Earth observation (SATEO) 
SatEO data are valuable for providing monitoring of the environmental condition of the area of interest. Data measured with radar and optical sensors can be used as input for modelling the current condition and for forecasting air quality, water quality and soil conditions. Multispectral bands data including the near-infrared band, as well as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data can be used for the detection of anomalies in the large areas; multispectral satellite images can be used to further zoom-in on any anomalies that have been detected with the radar. Novel concepts could be used to process remote sensing data (including meteo data) to detect dispersion effects in the atmosphere and in the ground because of pipeline leakages. Altimeter data from Sentinel-3 data can be used to detect the sea level. Further, SatEO data, in combination with demographic and other geospatial data, can be used to support the planning of the infrastructure, as well as the assessment of the impact on environment and population. Weather data are precious to monitor environmental conditions around areas of interest. Historical and current SatEO images can also be used to show the long-term effects on the environment surrounding the port.

5G Systems
5G systems, the next step in the evolution of fixed and mobile communication, could have a central role in the evolution of the port ecosystem. 5G will permit meeting a set of requirements (i.e. high data-rate, wide coverage, high throughput, high reliability) which are fundamental for enabling services relying on communication means for relying data with high availability and in a secure manner. This will be needed in the case of monitoring and management of assets with a large amount of data. It is expected that sensor networks and IoT technologies will rely massively on the new capabilities offered by 5G networks.


ESA Space Solutions can provide funding for assessing business and technical feasibility of new, space-based services related to the improvement of the port ecosystem. The activities will be 100% funded up to €200K per activity.


We look for teams that have identified an attractive market opportunity with real potential to engage customers. Motivation, business experience and domain expertise are all important features. We want to hear about your ideas that involve utilisation of either space technology or space data. 

For this call, companies residing in the following Member States will be eligible to apply:  Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The applicable funding level of the individual prime - or subcontractors is subject to authorisation by the involved National Delegation(s). Therefore, bidding teams are requested to obtain a Letter of Authorisation from all the respective national delegations before submitting the Proposal.

ESA Tender Information 

Responding to an open competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) requires the submission of a Proposal. The Proposal will be evaluated according to ESA regulations and procedures.

The consequential evaluation of proposals results in a recommendation for a winning bid. In the case that several proposals of good quality targeting different and/or complementary aspects are submitted, the Agency reserves the right to place parallel contracts for each of the open competitive ITTs in coordination with the relevant national delegations.

For the fully detailed Proposal Guide on competitive ITTs click: Open Competition.

Registration as Bidder

The Prime and all subcontractors must register as potential bidders via esa-star, prior to downloading the official tender documents from EMITS (which will be available as soon as the ITT is open) and submitting their Proposal. The registration process needs to be started as soon as possible, as it will take time to complete.