Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant amount of disruption to the entire world. However, as far as the Logistics industry is concerned, it has been more of a learning and growing period. Yes, right from the time the pandemic disrupted the supply chain, the entire Logistics fraternity was on the lookout for alternative solutions for business continuity and to reduce the impact of this downward trend.
Fortunately, technology adoption enabled them to stride further and ensure the global supply chain is live to facilitate essential cargo distribution. Right from Shipping Lines adopting online booking applications to Freight Forwarders choosing to go digital with their operations, things are not the same in this sector. Port authorities are investing in a wave of new technologies from artiﬁcial intelligence to the Internet of Things and Blockchain. Technology companies are actively working in large Ports like Los Angeles, Singapore and Rotterdam. Beyond the proof of concepts, we can see a trend: the development of Port community systems serving as trusted digital shipping hubs.
Port Community Systems on the rise
The primary role of a port community system is to bring together administrative and operational processes, share data for the beneﬁt of operators using Port facilities and act as a single window for customs and cross-border agencies. Port community systems have been operating in this area for more than 20 years, with recent and key developments in North America working at the forefront of electronic shipping portals. They have been instrumental in addressing each challenge the industry faces whether congestion, regulation, ecology or hinterland integration.
The mission of a port community system is not easy. Most initiatives must be conducted without disrupting local Logistics businesses and regulated state funding schemes. Port community systems have been operating at the main European Ports and some Asian Ports, such as Singapore and India. Most signiﬁcantly, U.S. West Coast Ports joined the party over the last two years with their own large-scale portal projects. Latin America — with the Port of Vera Cruz for instance — is also benefiting from improved security and customer experience brought by Port community systems.
The Port of L.A. is developing a $13 million-plus platform that aggregates Port data and implements machine-learning technology to enhance transparency and improve the efficiency of operations. They have involved terminal operators, shipping lines, truckers, chassis providers, railroads and cargo owners. The objectives are to provide a single window for shippers to get personalised cargo status updates and check ocean vessel schedules, enabling them to pay freight-handling fees, make appointments to pick up inbound goods, increase visibility, enhance real-time decision-making and optimise cargo movement through terminals in San Pedro Bay.
Leveraging AI for predicting possibilities for Trade Facilitation
With an AI network-driven approach stakeholders could identify common goals and mutually beneficial opportunities in near real time. Vessel turnaround time would be improved at the level of the terminal operator by optimising berth and quay crane allocation using foreknowledge of clustered vessel patterns. These clusters could be proactively broken up through coordination with ocean liners, pilots, tugs and vessel traffic services. Vessel flow would be improved at the level of the Port Authority by leveraging insights into navigational bottlenecks in estuaries, anchorages and berthing areas. On a longer timescale, this insight may also inform hydraulic infrastructure programs. The container dwell time may be reduced by providing visibility to hinterland transporters, beneficial cargo owners and third-party Logistics partners on the state of containers and predicted milestones throughout the Logistics chain.
The use of Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence is huge in the North American Logistics industry. It is in fact proven that technological intervention could make the movement of cargo and containers 10 times faster.
On-the-Go process optimisation
Technology adoption will involve continuous process optimisation. For example, automation is currently performed through desk systems. On the other hand, we also see mobile utility soaring high too. This is to ensure that all the field staff are equipped with a device to monitor the movement of containers and cargo.
Also, it is estimated that the advent of 5G will take the level of automation in the Logistics industry to a new level and mobility will have a large role to play here. The movement of cranes and communication among the straddle crane operators and vessels can be simplified with the intervention of mobility features. With this, processes can be optimised and what happens in a few hours will soon be performed in a few minutes in the future.
NxtPort’s initiative in the Port of Antwerp demonstrates the trend toward data pooling and monetisation through an information governance scheme. It aims to reduce operational costs for the participants and provide real-time information on performance, whether vessels or container movement ﬂows. NxtPort could be seen as the new digital breed of a port community system, unifying data exchange through standard API and apps usually developed by local startups. It brings a new model, which allows players to monetise their data when shared on the platform.
Verification and validation with blockchain
Blockchain technology is, undoubtedly, one of the hottest topics right now and may have a huge impact on Logistics and digitalisation at ports in the near future. Verifying and validating documents such as Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origin, and Delivery Order to name a few can all be performed by regulatory authorities with an authentic interface. A digital signature is also facilitated which would reduce manual intervention and save time for the authorities.
The Port of Barcelona’s port community system, Portic based on blockchain technology involves the exchange of real-time information to provide more details of the loading and unloading operations that occur at the Barcelona Port facilities.
Planning for the Future
Many networks are being set up, but will this create efficiency if it is not standardized? The World Trade Organization’s trade facilitation agreement is promoting a single window with discussions involving the United Nations, the International Port Community System Association and the World Customs Organization (WCO). These governmental trade facilitation initiatives aim to maximize the roles of ports and airports. The recent call for standardization made by large shipping lines will certainly be welcomed and supported by these organizations and port community systems.
In scenarios like the pandemic, it is highly essential that in the future, we have the resources to predict and act instantaneously to keep the supply chain live. Right from enabling fewer physical touchpoints to ensuring paperless trade and automating mundane processes to overcome delays, technologies like Port Community System will be essential. Therefore, the new normal will be a technology driven environment where 90 percent of the processes might not require human intervention.