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Port Laredo Should Look Toward Blockchain and AI, Expert Argues

TAMIU’s Daniel Covarrubias recently spoke about how emerging technologies can enlarge Laredo’s strong trade presence.

The importance of Laredo as a major port for international trade will continue to grow due to the change in the dynamics of global trade toward regionalization and nearshoring that must be supported by a more integrated and technologically advanced trade infrastructure, according to Texas A&M International University's Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development Director Daniel Covarrubias.

Covarrubias was recently interviewed by the Laredo Morning Times about his observations on the port’s trade and technology outlook.

He said that in 2024 Port Laredo is expected to continue to play an increasingly pivotal role in international trade, particularly in the context of U.S.-Mexico relations. He said the implementation of new technologies as well as the need to expand infrastructure are essential to continue this growth.

Covarrubias said that the city's ability to adapt to changing global trade patterns and embrace technological advancements will determine its role and success in international trade.

“Laredo’s strategic initiatives in these areas will set a precedent for other border cities, potentially reshaping the broader landscape of cross-border trade in North America,” he said.

In 2024, technology’s impact on international trade — especially at pivotal points like Port Laredo — should be profound and multifaceted.

He said that the digital transformation at Port Laredo should be focused on significantly enhancing its operational efficiency and global competitiveness and stressed the significance of blockchain technology.

“Blockchain technology stands out as a technology reading its arrival in prime time. Its implementation at ports of entry can significantly streamline customs clearance processes,” he said. “Blockchain technology can substantially reduce paperwork, minimize errors and prevent fraud by providing a secure, transparent ledger for transactions and shipments.

“This not only speeds up the customs process but also fortifies the reliability and efficiency of operations.”

He explained how the successful deployment of blockchain in a pilot program by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the U.S.-Mexico steel supply chain exemplifies its potential to enhance trade security, supply chain visibility and traceability.

“Further, the construction of the Non-Intrusive Inspection Multi Energy Portal at the World Trade Bridge, set for completion in April 2024, marks another significant stride in technological advancement," he said. "This portal will revolutionize how commodities arriving from Mexico are inspected, enabling rapid detection of contraband and other security threats and streamlining trade flows.”

Covarrubias said that implementing such technologies is not just a matter of improving security measures; it is about enhancing the efficiency of the entire trade process.

“Faster and more efficient processing of images through this technology means reduced bottlenecks, leading to smoother and quicker movement of goods through the port,” he said.

Covarrubias said that AI’s application in cross-border trade and logistics is also quite promising, given these operations' repetitive and predictable nature. By streamlining processes and reducing error margins, AI can significantly enhance operational efficiency.

For Covarrubias, the impact of AI in 2024 will extend beyond just operational improvements; it will also necessitate a shift in the workforce dynamics.

“The rise of AI-centric roles will require developing specialized human resources to bridge the gap between AI's potential and its practical, on-ground application,” he said. “This includes the creation of AI producers, who develop and integrate AI into workflows; AI practitioners, who execute these AI-driven applications; and AI-aware individuals, who appreciate AI's role in contemporary logistics and trade.

“The upskilling and broadening access to AI-related roles will be crucial in realizing the full potential of AI in cross-border trade. Port Laredo will be more efficient and competitive through continued investment in infrastructure and technology.”

Covarrubias said that integrating advanced digital solutions and logistics technologies is essential for handling the increasing trade volume efficiently and sustainably.

“Technology can play a transformative role in optimizing the functionality of these bridges,” he said.

Smart traffic management systems, automated cargo processing and real-time data analysis are being deployed to improve the efficiency and speed of border crossings.

“By integrating these innovations, the port aims to expedite goods movement, enhance compliance with security and customs requirements, and strike a balance between efficiency, safety and legal obligations.”

Finally, he said that these innovations will allow Laredo to process a higher volume of trade more rapidly and with greater accuracy, contributing to smoother and more efficient cross-border transactions.

(c)2024 the Laredo Morning Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.