Digitization Initiatives in Key Ports Across the World

Digitization Initiatives in Key Ports Across the World

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Spotlight: Digitization Initiatives in Key Ports Across the World

Smart Ports, digitization and more


Maritime Trade has been existing since time immemorial. Since the beginning, North America has been one of the prime location for maritime trade in terms of source as well as destination. The 50+ major ports in United States of America alone are responsible for around 2300+ million MT of cargo.

Although the commercial cargo operations started prospering from 1820’s, the shipping industry in US has been here since early 1600’s. 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 or 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 was succumbed to a global pandemic, ports have undergone a major shift in terms of infrastructure development and the way of operation. Digitization in this case has played a major role in terms of infrastructural upgradation.


Over a period, these upgradations have resulted in a major trade facilitation synergy as well as operational efficiency with cost savings. Here we look at some ports which have digitized their operations at an early stage and are reaping the benefits.

Digitization Efforts in Port of Rotterdam

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 digitize their operations and focus on achieving sustainable development goals such as paperless trade etc.


As a result of these operations, there is significant cost savings and improved operational efficiency. Right from digitizing processes such as generation of electronic bill of lading to digitizing 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 Red Sea, the Port of Djibouti is an 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 were 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 digitization 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 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 digitization 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 to 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 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 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 digitize 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 reduced 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 percent.

Wrap Up

As on date, very few ports have inculcated port community system or any digitization 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 digitization drives in various ports globally. Yet, this constitutes to 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.

About the Author

Automation, Optimization, End-to-End Supply Chain, Smart Technologies, and Digitalization the buzz words in Maritime trade are changing the Port operations and how the allied community works.

Umesh Kurlekar, Sr. Maritime Consultant from Kale Logistics Solutions discusses how today’s ports find themselves at the centre of the digitalisation journey the global supply chain is currently on.