The COVID-19 crisis has painfully demonstrated the heterogeneous landscape that currently exists across ports worldwide. While some port communities seized the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and developed into full-fledged ‘smart’ ports, many others have barely grasped the essentials of digitalisation and continue to struggle with larger reliance on personal interaction and paper-based transactions as the norms for shipboard, ship-port interface and port-hinterland based exchanges. This is the main finding that triggered the recent call to action communiqué initiated by the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), co-signed by BIMCO, the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA), the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Harbour Masters Association (IHMA), the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA), the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA), the International Ship Suppliers and Services Association (ISSA) and the PROTECT Group.
In the call to action, the co-signees include the following priorities:
- Find ways of using existing International Maritime Organization’s Facilitation (FAL) Convention requirements to support electronic transmission, receipt, and response of information for all port community-related transactions, making the transition to full-fledged single window systems.
- Harmonise data standards beyond FAL to create additional e-business solutions, share data to optimise port calls as well to effectively deploy resources by logistics providers to handle and clear cargo handling. This will cut energy use, reduce costs and emissions, and improve safety.
- Strive to introduce Port Community Systems and secure data exchange platforms in IMO Member State ports.
- Review existing IMO guidance on Maritime Cyber Risk Management on its ability to address cyber risks in ports, developing additional guidance where needed.
- Raise awareness, avoid misconceptions, standardise and promote best practices as to how port communities can apply emerging technologies.
- Increase health security in port environments for all stakeholders on board and on shore by applying innovation and technological solutions.
- Develop a practical roadmap that facilitates a digital port environment where port community service providers and users can securely share data.
- Establish a coalition of willing stakeholders to improve transparency of the supply chain, starting with long overdue introduction of the electronic bill of lading.
- Support smaller, less developed, and under-staffed port communities with technical facilities and personnel training.
The policy statement, which has also been developed with members of the Roundtable of international port organisations and experts from the WPSP COVID19 Taskforce, will now be submitted to the IMO Secretariat in London as a proposal for further dissemination and follow-up action.