9 to 10 years ago the as-is characteristics of a port was that the actors acted as isolated islands, silos, with unstructured information sharing, insufficient IT-systems and sub optimization. There was also no shared situational awareness, low predictability, as well as lack of standards for information sharing and that’s still how it works today in many ports. People are emailing and phoning each other, even sometimes sending faxes, which makes it easy to miss information about the port calls.

Today we need to move away from the unstructured information sharing, the ‘spaghetti’ structure, to a more structured information sharing of real-time data of the port calls with information such as standardized time stamps. This is because if you are going to increase the coordination in the port, you need to have a god collaboration and data sharing between the different actors meaning a standardized, safe, and secure communication in real-time. We prefer if the information sharing comes directly from the actors own system, instead of creating a new system to type in data to.

This to ensure that when someone makes an update of a new time, e.g. an estimate of arrival to berth,  the information will be shared with the other actors involved in the port call. Even if you have a good coordination inside the port, you need the ships to be connected if you are going to be able to reach a good synchronization. When you have that, you can also start sharing some information between ports, information you decide that you want to share with the next port and enabling connectivity to hinterland information exchange to connect to the whole logistic chain.

So what is PortCDM? It is based on three foundations to enhance precision of time stamps. The vessel making a visit to a port for a certain purpose. Then we combine multiple data sources, We synchronize involved actors conception of different time stamps ans evaluate the likelihood that an action will occur according to the plan.

When we come to a port, we gather the different actors in the port and ask them about e.g. ETA. Everytime when we have done this it is shown that the actors have different opinions on what it is. For the port authority it could be the estimated time of arrival to berth and the terminal disagrees, saying this is the ETB. As for the ship agent, it says that we always talk about ETA to the pilot station. So the thing with the standard we use, the S-211, is that it always describes ETA to which location or for what type of operation.


We also have indicators telling different actors that they have different perceptions over when a specific service is going to take place in order to create a situational awareness of the port call among the actors in the port.

Also, Different systems, have different IDs and in PortCDM we match the different time stamps from different systems to the same port call, so they relate to each other and the same port call

This is expected to result in a basis for just-in-time operations and better efficient capacity utilization, as well as better just-in-time arrivals for the ships and also the departures. Thus, the shipping lines can manage their fleet in a better way, and also as a basis for port-to-port collaboration.

However, all ports are different. Different ports have reached different levels when it comes to digitalization. Of the nine ports we work within the PortCDM, in the Sea Traffic Management project, we had ports that didn’t had any systems at all, they wrote down the estimates on a piece of paper with a graphite pen, and when the actuals occurred they swirche to an ink pen.

So we created this framework, or the PortCDM maturity model, to enable the port to set ambitions and evaluate the conditions to implement the PortCDM, and also to identify and communicate what internal and external actors can expect and make it easier to attract system providers; how can we create a connector, and what kind of information do the actors want to share.

We also realized that if there is going to be something after the project, we need to create a global governance. So we create the International PortCDM council (IPCDMC), because we wanted something like a council to govern the standard that we produced, as well as the concept in order to evolve afterwards, that someone takes care of it. The council has 40+ members and 35+ followers, and they are from ports, national maritime organizations, shipping lines and different other organizations.

IPCDMC works on a global level because we believe that PortCDM should be able for everyone. IPCDMC also works on regional level and help local ports, and international clusters.

Moreover, we created the port call message format that now has evolved into a standard for sharing time stamps, the S-211, because we didn’t find a standard that could handle both estimates and actuals for different operations and locations.

We also created a port call  process ontology, because we realized that all ports work differently, and port calls work differently in ports. We created a generic one and then in every port we went to, we created an ontology for that port, because they share different times, and they have different things that they need to work amongst.

Then there is the living lab approach. For us when we gather the different actors involved in port calls, it was often the first time they sat down together. That’s good because then you can start communicating what kind of information you can share and what can you expect from each other.

In the project we also created some digital service for situational awareness, that people can download and use, and we lowered the threshold for third party innovations. We now have a sustainability level; now it is out there in different ways for people to use and also the principles for collaborations.

So what are the next steps? We have the IPCDMC facilitating an emerging PortCDM ecosystem of users and service providers. It will refine the PortCDM maturity framework and also the S-211 standard. Finally, it will establish regional PortCDM councils for regional governance within IPCDMC.

There are business opportunities for everyone. When we talk about PortCDM, we have some people thinking this will take the business away from ship agents, for example, but we had a lot of ship agents within the project and they also saw benefits for them. They don’t have to chase the information. When they get some information, they can also produce better services to their customers.

Finally, there are also benefits for the shipping lines and for the terminals, which will better know when the ship is coming, and if there are any other services that will happen.


Above text is an edited version of Mr. Karlsson’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Hamburg Forum.

View his presentation herebelow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

About Mathias Karlsson, Researcher, RISE Victoria

Mathias Karlsson started his career 16 years ago by studying Shipping and Logistics at Chalmers University of Technology. Mathias has been involved from the beginning with the development and validation of PortCDM. Prior to joining RISE eight years ago, he worked for several years within the maritime sector, both as a ship agent at August Leffler & Son and Maersk Broker and in other port operations at ODEC in the Energy Harbour in port of Gothenburg.