Call for National Seaport Information Portal

file photo

By The Maritime Executive 12-07-2017 07:22:14

The American economy relies upon an international supply chain that can be made more efficient and resilient through private sector initiatives such as the creation of a National Seaport Information Portal.

This is one of the key recommendations that Commissioner Rebecca Dye highlighted in a report published on Thursday by the Federal Maritime Commission. The portal would enable critical information to be shared via a national seaport information portal that is adaptable for use by any port in the country. The portal would display standardized, critical information via dashboards that are customizable, real-time and secure.

The final report on the Commission’s Supply Chain Innovation Initiative summarizes the work of the six supply chain innovation teams that Dye led over the past 18 months. The teams were tasked with identifying commercial solutions to increase American international supply chain performance. 

While supportive of a portal, the teams also raised issues that would need to be addressed in an information portal project. At the technical level, the teams noted that the large number of actors in the supply chain has contributed to a lack of standardized data and inconsistent data codes, reporting fields, and terminology. Another concern was whether a portal designed for the national level could affect competition among ports. 

Additionally, the teams raised the question of who would manage, maintain, and fund a national supply chain portal. They identified options such as cargo fees and self-funding the portal, i.e., access to the portal by subscription.

Dye also identified several major systemic challenges in her report. "The lack of direct customer relationships between actors in the commercial supply chain system (such as shippers and marine terminals) impedes problem-solving. Where direct customer relationships exist between supply chain actors, there is a commercial vehicle to adapt supply chain behavior."

She highlighted that the lack of mutual commitment or "skin-in-the-game" is an impediment to realizing the full potential from customer relationships that do exist in the commercial system, for example, in service contracting and export container availability. "One of our export teams recommended a ‘premium customer’ option that would solve the dual problems of export container availability and carrier booking integrity by increasing mutual customer commitments of carriers and exporters."

But Dye said the "value proposition" for increasing supply chain performance is providing visibility of critical information throughout the commercial supply chain. "Without critical, timely information, supply chain actors are ‘flying blind.’ Access to the right information will promote behavior ‘self-correction’ and ‘harmonize’ the supply chain." In this regard, the teams all supported the concept of a National Seaport Information Portal.

Earlier this year the Port of Los Angeles initiated a pilot project to improve visibility of key supply chain information. "I am closely following the Port of Los Angeles/GE pilot project, another demonstration that economic imperatives will always drive innovation,” said Dye. “I look forward to seeing the results of their work and evaluating its potential to become a national seaport information portal."

Dye says: "Our overall commercial supply chain is a complex, dynamic ecosystem, and the systemic interactions within the system make it difficult to develop solutions in isolation from each other. We need to look beyond the dock and the terminal gate, and ‘step out of our enterprise silos’ to identify solutions to supply chain challenges."