Ports Risk Losing Control of Their Place in the Logistics Chain
An UNCTAD study has been released examining the digitalization of ports and the risks they face by not adopting “smart” technology.
The study Digitalizing the Port Call Process has been compiled by Mikael Lind, Robert Ward, Michael Bergmann, Sandra Haraldson, and Almir Zerem with the Research Institutes of Sweden.
Many ports aim at becoming smart ports, and expectations put upon them include being:
• the driver for sustainability by enabling just-in-time operations;
• an information hub advising the use of the transport network of which the port is a hub; and
• providing enhanced predictability of operations and the timing of the port visit.
It becomes essential for the port of tomorrow to be connected to the global supply chain, in particular, by being informed about upstream progress to ensure its ability to plan its operations successfully and optimally, states the report. This is something that can be achieved through enhanced collaboration and data sharing.
“Digitalization of safety of navigation and international security arrangements are reasonably well covered by internationally agreed global standards and directives under the auspices of the IMO, the EU and other organizations. However, one of the dilemmas with digitalization, standardization and data sharing in the port operations environment is the absence of over-arching bodies like the IMO that can strongly influence standardization. There is also the tension between catering for local requirements and sensitivities including existing infrastructure to overcome.”
The authors say the challenge now is for current stakeholders to implement digitalization and to adopt common, interoperable data standards or to risk losing control in the logistic chain. “A question for those currently involved is whether progress in standardized digitalization will be fast enough or whether some of the major suppliers of goods or services, and others, or some countries will impose their own arrangements, including, in-effect, the control of shipping companies and ports at strategic places in the world using their own systems and procedures.”
The report's discussion is taken from the point of view of shipping as a global phenomenon enabled by ship movements creating a global network of sea transport facilitated by ports. In this global transport network, the ports are playing a key role by being nodes in the global transport system.
During the last decade, various efforts have been made to enhance the coordination / synchronization / optimization of port call operations. One of those is PortCDM, an international, independent and product agnostic concept of mutually beneficial near real-time digital data sharing.
PortCDM acknowledges that a “one size fits all” solution is most inappropriate in a dynamic, flexible, digitally enhanced business environment, so it concentrates on providing generic guidelines and standards that can be adapted and applied at the regional and local level.
PortCDM provides operational and technical guidelines for supporting port call actors to pursue more predictable timings and operations based on a common and shared understanding of timings and plans and by making existing processes more effective and efficient.
The report is available here.