Themed “Innovation on the Move”, this year’s Congress explores to the role of technological advancements in optimizing operations management, driving continuous improvement and facilitating global trade. “The faster we adopt disruptive technologies, the better chance we have to stay competitive and serve our customers better,” said Nabil Salim Al Bimani, Group Chief of Ports & Freezone and member of the organizing committee. “Technology-driven innovation will be the key to meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”
The first day started with a special session organised in partnership with Mwasalat which brought together leading international figures to examine major challenges facing passenger transport operators today and discuss the solutions for tomorrow. Commenting on the modernisation of Mwasalat, Oman’s national transport company, CEO Ahmed Al Bulushi said, “We have initiated a number of innovations such as smart ticketing, passenger information systems, and automated vehicle management systems. All these initiatives will help to improve transport systems and mobility, reduce traffic associated problem, enhance the economy and, finally, help to continue the economic and social development of the Sultanate of Oman.”
A declaration was also signed between IRU, the guardian of the TIR system under the United Nations mandate, Mwasalat, the official TIR issuing authority, and the Royal Oman Police Directorate General of Customs. This reaffirms the Sultanate’s commitment to boosting trade across its borders and working in partnership to bring the globally applicable international customs transit and guarantee system to life in Oman.
The Congress also marked the culmination of IRU’s 70th anniversary adventure, “We Love the Road”. David Couliau, a film producer, entrepreneur, skateboarder and storyteller, travelled through 18 countries across three continents by truck, bus, coach, taxi and skateboard to meet the real people of road transport.
In the first opening plenary session, “Moving in the 21st Century – Road Transport, Mobility and Trade” José Manuel Durão Barroso, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and Former President of the European Commission, urged the industry to work together to effect positive change, “It is essential to talk, regardless of differing interests and animosities, because talking is what leads to deals, which in turn means trade and global prosperity.”
Futurist and innovation expert Jim Carroll shared extensive knowledge and insights into the cutting-edge trends of our time to assist businesses and governments to pursue fast-paced innovation, and navigate rapid business model disruption and change. He said, “In a time of rapid change, you can't expect to get by on what has worked in the past. You must be willing to do things differently. Abandon routine – embrace velocity!”
The interactive roundtable sessions discussed a number of hot topics including data management and analysis, enhancing competitiveness with infrastructure development and new intermodal connections, designing the future workforce, adopting next generation platforms, enabling trade facilitation and increasing fuel efficiencies.
On decarbonising transport, Benny Smets, CEO of the Belgian transport company Ninatrans, said, “Alternative fuels are the future for road transport, but only if they are easy to access! We have to leave the chicken and egg dilemma. Sustainable transport can be achieved if the whole logistics chain participates. Operators want to invest in vehicles on alternative fuel only if the Total Cost of Ownership is known and economically feasible.”
Companies, entrepreneurs, and start-ups shaping the future of the mobility, logistics, and transport industry were also exhibited at the Innovation Alley. In the “Start Up Competition” organised by Road Ventures SA, six budding enterprises were shortlisted and went head to head to win the US$ 100,000 prize in equity investment. SafeDrivePod offers a complete solution to fight smartphone distraction in traffic, whereas CargoX is the independent supplier of blockchain-based Smart Bill of Lading (Smart B/L™) solution. Lowbus is a renting bus company - which owns no buses - that offers lower prices and more control to travel agencies and Zeleros hyperloop is developing a scalable transport system to move passenger and cargo at 1000 km/h with reduced infrastructure cost. Kydo Dynamics offers mobility analytics based on the principals of Particle Physics using mobile data as a source. Last but not least, Meep is a mobility app through which users can search, reserve and pay for trips within a single transaction.
The IRU World Congress will conclude on Thursday where innovation and competitiveness will be the main topic of discussion.