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Thursday, 13 August 2015

The role of port communities – Interview Richard Morton, Secretary General, IPCSA

Greater levels of automation and the desire for tighter integration between the various organisations operating within a port has driven an explosion of interest in developing Port Community Systems (PCS) in recent years.

Richard Morton, Secretary General, of the International Port Community System Association (IPCSA) spoke to Port Finance International about some of the trends driving the sector and the outlook for the future.

As a means to facilitate trade via a given port ecosystem a PCS involves technology that allows participants to share data and streamline logistic operations typically a Single Window system and ecommerce software.

“Implementing PCS or single window successfully takes 3 to 4 years. The key issues are nearly always not to do with the technology but in bringing people together and understanding the local way of working,” Morton explained

“In Europe for example the Port Authority generally takes the lead whereas in Dubai it is Dubai trade which leads and in Brazil it is the terminal operators.”

This local knowledge can involve understanding different legal structures in different countries or simply getting various actors to develop trust that the data they provide will not be used in a competitive manner.

“In general we see Single Window driving Trade Facilitation and as these Single Windows develop many countries are now looking towards integrating PCS as supporting tools for efficient paperless trade.  In general we currently see that African countries are developing PCS + Single window, Asian countries are developing single window + ecommerce, while Latin America operators are developing single window initially and are now looking to understand how PCS will be a part of that process.”

Benchmarking port efficiency

While the process to develop a fully functioning PCS at a given port can take several years, once established the benefits are huge for all actors with cargo waiting times typically slashed.

“Since the introduction of a PCS fundamentally  changes the way actors within a port work the issues in benchmarking improvements can be the lack of direct comparisons as each port has its own processes, rules and environment,” Morton said.

“Having said this the benefits are normally clear. In the Port of Odessa for instance we have seen container dwell times fall from 43 days to just  4 days  in some cases and at the Port of Contonou in Benin it fell from 36 days to 8 days over the course of just two years.”

“Morocco has a trade single window as well as PCS which manages trade in all Moroccan ports and as a result Morocco has skyrocketed up the World Bank Logistics index.”

Developing a global network

One of the key aims of IPCSA has been to expand the knowledge base around successful PCS implementations to a global audience and last month Brazilian industry association the Associação Brasileira de Terminais e Recintos Alfandegados (ABTRA) become the latest member to join and the first in Latin America.

“PCS was born in Europe but is now spreading to the rest of the world. At present IPCSA has 18 members in Europe and 8 in the rest of the world but this number is growing and between them they operate in ports handling in excess of 100m TEUs and 3bn tonnes of cargo.” Morton explained.

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