IAPH joined forces in June with other industry associations in calling for the acceleration of digitalization of ports.

It has now assessed the status of implementation of electronic data exchange at the world’s ports and has initiated a guidance document with the World Bank.

In June 2020, IAPH and industry partners across the maritime sector joined forces in a combined call to action to accelerate digitalization in the world’s ports.

Digitalization in ports boosts efficiency creates competitiveness, economic growth and jobs. In addition, and in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic, it is also about strengthening resilience, protecting ship’s crews as well as port workers serving the ships calling at their ports.

The COVID19 pandemic has obliged countries and ports to look at minimizing human interface between ship and shore staff before and during port calls, replacing paper-based procedures with digitized processes.

IMO has developed standardised trade facilitation (FAL) documentation for authorities and Governments to use to cover these processes, and since April 2019 has made it mandatory for ships and ports to exchange FAL data electronically.

An IAPH-led survey of over 100 of the world’s ports concludes that the biggest barrier to successful data interchange and adopting FAL requirements is neither the financing, nor the information technology. It is the willingness of multiple port stakeholders to collaborate and the need to implement a legal framework governing and ensuring accurate and robust data exchange.

A third of these survey port respondents have yet to commence digitalizing according to IMO FAL requirements, a third are developing them and only the remaining third have systems operational.

In developed as well as developing countries, the proven best practice has been to create a legal/institutional framework for digitalizing ports with sound governance, creating trust and true data collaboration between public and private port stakeholders

The proven method for implementing this is fivefold :

1. Engaging all stakeholders in the process from day one

2. Embedding clear data governance

3. Data orchestration, namely the automation of data-driven processes from end-to-end

4. Effective management of change

5. Sustainably-funded solutions

The World Bank Paper outlines proven short- and medium- term measures ports can take to accelerate digitalization and strengthen resilience in the long term.

In the short term it advocates deploying smart technologies such as wearables, drones and thermal imaging to improve immediate digital health security between ship and shore personnel as a response to COVID19.

In the medium term, The World Bank paper recommends the immediate digital adoption of the IMO FAL requirements and ultimately a port community system which is a neutral and open electronic platform to enable intelligent and secure exchange of information between public and private stakeholders. This improves the competitive position of the port’s community and optimizes port and logistics processes through a single submission of data, connecting transport and logistics chains.

The orchestrated, simplified standard exchange of one-to-any messages at nautical, administrative and operational level between ship and shore following robust standards will optimize a port call, ultimately reducing both dwelling time and ships emissions at the port.

The ultimate aim is to become a Smart Port capable of using predictive artificial intelligence and a digital twin to simulate outcomes, blockchain for secure operational and financial transactions between stakeholders and 5G networks to automate, measure and integrate seamless operations across port communities.

Successfully sustaining effective security in increasingly digitized smart port environments now demands integrating cybersecurity practices into traditional physical security methods at ports.