A recent UNCTAD study has been released examining the digitalization of ports and the risks they face by not adopting smart technologies. The study identifies the principal tensions and opportunities arising that are impacting the inevitable and ongoing digitalization process, particularly through the authors’ experience in the development and subsequent validation of the Port Collaborative Decision Making (PortCDM) concept.
The Digitalizing the Port Call Process study further identifies the trends of development at large and those associated with the many stakeholders that are involved in global maritime operations. The study stresses that in this global transport network, 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; and 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.
In fact, 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 further 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 study further suggests that a positive way forward is enhanced digital collaboration to overcome the legacy of dis-connectivity coming out of the legacy of shipping. In this context, many ports aim at becoming smart ports.
Expectations put upon these ports 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; as well as
- providing enhanced predictability of operations and the timing of the port visit.
What is more, the study highlights that
It becomes essential for the port of tomorrow to be connected to the global supply chain by being informed about upstream progress to ensure its ability to plan its operations successfully and optimally.
Through the introduction of digitalization and enhanced procedures of collaboration and data sharing, this can be enabled. PortCDM and port call optimization promote the necessary cultural development of collaboration necessary to achieve environmental and efficiency gains in port call operations and to establish ports as an integrated hub in the global transport chain.
Namely, 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, as the reports notes, 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, and at the same time being able to enable those involved to connect and be connected to the world.
The need to ensure the close harmonization of PortCDM and port call optimization is an example of this, noting that
The challenge is now on current stakeholders in the maritime sector to implement digitalization and to adopt common, interoperable data standards or to risk losing control in the logistic chain.
The Digitalizing the Port Call Process study has been compiled by Mikael Lind, Robert Ward, Michael Bergmann, Sandra Haraldson, and Almir Zerem with the Research Institutes of Sweden and reflects the insights gained by the Port Collaborative Decision Making(PortCDM) team at RISE during the last seven years of applied research and innovation efforts on data sharing and collaboration.
To explore more about the UNCTAD study, you can click on the PDF bellow.