Maritime Trade has been existing since time immemorial. Since the beginning, North America has been one of the prime locations for Maritime trade in terms of source as well as destination. The 50+ major Ports in the United States of America alone are responsible for around 2300+ million MT of cargo.
Although commercial cargo operations started prospering in the 1820s, the shipping industry in the US has been here since the early 1600s. Shipping alone contributes to 26% of the country’s economy through direct and indirect trading. In order to meet these demands, Ports have constantly been upgraded in terms of infrastructure, operations and resources available. This is the only possible way to manage the rising demands apart from an actual Port expansion in terms of land.
While the world succumbed to a global pandemic, Ports have undergone a major shift in terms of infrastructure development and the way of operation. Digitisation in this case has played a major role in terms of infrastructural upgradation.
Over a period, these upgrades have resulted in a major trade facilitation synergy as well as operational efficiency with cost savings. Here we look at some Ports which have digitised their operations at an early stage and are reaping the benefits.
Digitisation efforts in Port of Rotterdam
The Port of Rotterdam is said to have the best Port infrastructure in the world and is one of the key Ports in Europe. This is because, at a very early stage, the Port Authority chose to digitise its operations and focus on achieving sustainable development goals such as paperless trade etc.
As a result of these operations, there are significant cost savings and improved operational efficiency. Right from digitising processes such as the generation of electronic bill of lading to digitising online slot booking for freight, the Port has all the essential technology adoption factors in place.
Implementing Port Community System in Djibouti Port
At the tail end of the Red Sea, the Port of Djibouti is officially the gateway to landlocked countries in Central Eastern Africa. 90 percent of Ethiopia’s imports pass through Djibouti and it is well connected to Ports in European, Middle Eastern and Asia Pacific Regions.
Recently, the Port Authority saw a lack of transparency and visibility in the operations which was causing chaos in cargo flow. Most importantly, adhering to regulatory compliance was a major challenge here. Therefore, the Port Authority chose an IT service provider to implement Djibouti Port Community System. The primary responsibility of this digitisation drive is to ensure transparency and visibility in the entire operations followed by adhering to IMO’s FAL mandate. Also, it was meant to automate the generation of vessel certificates and ease vessel declaration norms. To offer a 360-degree view of cargo and documentation flow, the community system had to set a robust mechanism to let all stakeholders know the status of cargo and documentation.
As a result, impeccable operational efficiency was achieved at the Port and now digitisation is mandatory for all stakeholders in this Port ecosystem.
Implementation of Port Community System at Tuticorin Port, India
Tuticorin Port is one of 12 major Ports in India and is a hub for export-import trade in the Southern part of the country. However, truck congestion at the gate and vessel congestion at the Maritime side has been the most pressing issue for the Port Authority and the stakeholders. Due to the same, they could not improve their cargo handling capacity and were further bogged down by regulatory hassles.
These stakeholders were looking for a solution that would not only address the current issues but also prove to be sustainable for the growing volumes of cargo operations. The Port appointed a multi-modal Logistics IT solutions provider to develop India’s first Container Digital Exchange Platform – CODEX, to automate and digitally streamline the container movement at the Port.
This Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) based electronic platform expedited the seamless movement of EXIM Containers in and out of the Port from/to the Tuticorin-based CFS/ICDs. It electronically connected the pertinent stakeholders and ensured transparency and ease of operational coordination.
Singapore – The birthplace of the Port Community System
Singapore is a small island country with large growth opportunities. Since the early 1970s and 1980s, the country has seen exponential growth. As of 2012, it is the world’s 14th largest merchandise exporter and most favoured transhipment Port in the entire Asia Pacific Region.
Way back in the late 1980s, Singapore foresaw a future of manual documentation chaos. Due to the same, they quickly chose to digitise and hired a Logistics IT solutions provider to offer Port Community System on a transactional basis. Over the years, they kept on upgrading the utility of the community platform and now the entire Port is automated.
The result–processing of documents which usually takes 2-7 days is now taking just one minute. And the processing fee for each document has been reduced by 3 times. Per day, the number of documents processed too has doubled i.e., to 30,000 per day from 10,000 per day. Most importantly, revenue processing per staff too rose by nearly 300 per cent.
As of date, very few Ports have inculcated Port community systems or any digitisation efforts for that matter. Also, it is to be noted that these Ports managed to achieve big and stay ahead of their peers giving them a competitive advantage.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ensured mandatory digitisation drives in various Ports globally. Yet, this constitutes less than 30 percent of Ports. Therefore, the Maritime world has still a long way to go to achieve the 100 percent mark. But once achieved, it is going to be seamlessness in cross-border trade and soaring export-import volumes.