Though ports have embraced automation more slowly than comparable sectors, the pace is now starting to accelerate. They are facing a shortage of human resources, poor data, siloed operations, and difficulty handling exceptions. Other challenges include poor hinterland connectivity with rail, road, highways, coastal shipping, inland waterways and infrastructure woes.
Technological innovation plays a key role in developing solutions to boost productivity in the most cutting-edge ports in the world. Port Community System (PCS) is a good example. But, what is PCS? It can be defined as:
This is the tool not only brings together the stakeholders of the maritime sector onto a single platform it also facilitates government-to-business, business-to-government and business-to-business transactions in a highly secured environment. Customs, forwarders, shippers, shipping lines, terminal operators, inspection agencies, hauliers and railway operators – all of these, and more, need access to smart, real-time information. The platform aims to provide the business community with a streamlined process for submitting export and import information to customs and other government agencies.
The electronic platform provided by a PCS is at the heart of the ‘spider’s web’ of the logistics intelligence required for smooth trading, relaying messages and enabling the re-use of data wherever possible, so that the many stakeholders involved need enter their data only once. The alternative can be a sea of paper, allied with inefficiencies, inaccuracies and far too much duplication of work with manual intervention. Built on an open platform, the platform technology can integrate any new concept or module available without disturbing the existing ecosystem. This feature offers the platform unlimited scope for growth and expansion.
With technologies like Blockchain, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G PCS can take a giant step further. This PCS 3.0 the next generation PCS is expected to cut operating expenses by 25 to 55 percent and raise productivity by 10 to 35 percent as per recent reports. PCS 3.0 will enablethe shift from asset operator to service orchestrator, part of a larger transition to Industry 4.0.
Thereby providing grounds to digitally-enabled efficiency gains throughout the world trade and economy. PCS 3.0 will generate more value for port operators, suppliers, and customers alike.
In the model for the future, PCS 3.0 powered ports will enlarge their role by synchronizing physical and information flows inside and outside terminals to enhance the port ecosystem’s broader, systemwide efficiency. Forward-looking ports will push toward this next horizon, beyond automation, in the coming era. Every player—shippers, terminal operators, trucking companies, railroads, shippers, logistics companies, freight forwarders, and consignees—will be connected to optimize the entire supply chain ecosystem. Ports can experience optimization through advanced analytics, and dynamic scheduling.
The cornerstone of PCS 3.0 will be automation, which—if implemented and configured appropriately—can transform ports into highly reliable, efficient and flexible logistics hubs. It can ensure direct predictable physical flows and use of extensive data with advanced analytics to buffer many variables in the transportation network. Ports, now often seen as constraints in transportation networks, could then actively resolve problems in other parts of the value chain.
This journey from Port 1.0 to Port 3.0 has been evolutionary, but PCS 3.0 requires a leap into the future and bold changes in the operating model with technology as the backbone. It is essential to involve the relevant stakeholders and to develop, together with them, a new business and governance model for collaboration, trust, and communication. Only then will PCS 3.0 unlock its full potential. Port community systems can, and will, play a major role as the world moves towards the Single Window concept.