International Taskforce mobilised to optimize port calls using existing standards

Ports team up with maritime and industry partners to tackle a challenge that has existed since the birth of shipping centuries ago – optimising port calls using standardized master and event data. The aim is to solve a very current issue : the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in and around ports.

An LPG pressurized carrier enters a lock . Courtesy of EXMAR

“We cannot envisage an efficient port call if all parties involved cannot reach a common understanding on what defines a port call, the parameters involved and key events where accurate information needs to be shared by actual data owners. It therefore all starts by defining the process”

comments Captain Ben van Scherpenzeel, Chairman of the Port Call Optimization project who is also Director Nautical Developments, Policy and Plans of the Port of Rotterdam.

Established in 2014, the Port Call Optimization International Taskforce commenced its work to resolve the key question that has been asked by shipowners and operators alike. Namely : when my seaborne vessel plans to make a port call anywhere in the world, why is standard operational information needed for that call not available at the right time ?

A defining moment for shipping definitions and a standard port call process

The work was considerable, and commenced with the creation of appendices with clear, industry terms describing the minimum information needed for the seamless business process of a port call that applies to every trade and port in the world.

“We have used definitions from established international institutions, and in some cases even researched into relevant international jurisprudence to get these right first time” adds van Scherpenzeel.

With up to 1,200 ports throughout the world receiving anything up to 55,000 different types of ships, the International Taskforce kept its focus on and faith in three credos : simplification, unification and standardization.


Creating a standardised approach to optimise a port call

By agreeing on the scope of data, functional definitions and their use the International Taskforce has now reached a consensus on a data model, its formats and usage. This has triggered the development of two critical tools now being tested to facilitate the interchange of accurate information by each data owner with each other in the port call process.

Avanti is a project that is developing a real time system designed for Harbor Masters to enable them to provide accessible, accurate information to all port users in order to optimise a vessel port call.

Pronto is a project which comes as a spin off from Avanti which is developing a simple system where all port service providers (including terminals, bunker barges and pilots) can update their starting and completion times in order create a timetable per vessel. This in turn significantly reduces to the one-to-one and one-to-many communications that often duplicates processes and complicates interactions between the port community and its trading partners during a vessel port call.

What is the next step ?

“The fundamentals for port call optimisation have now been established by our partners based on solid foundations of existing international legislation and industry precedence. The next step is to ensure they are also adopted within an existing regulatory framework. We need an ISO for the industry,”

concludes Captain Van Scherpenzeel. Following work with Taskforce partners, standard partners UKHO and GS1 and the endorsement of the ports and maritime industry including IAPH (see footer), the Chairman of the International Taskforce and his team will present their project at the upcoming Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting at the IMO in London in October. One of the main environmental issues that the MEPC is looking into is the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from ships.

A World Ports Sustainability Program endorsement by IAPH

Dr. Patrick Verhoeven, Managing Director of the International Association of Ports and Harbors commented:

“The IAPH has established its World Ports Sustainability Program to respond to worldwide, regional and local challenges, such as climate change, mobility, digitalisation, migration and social integration. This project is a fine example of Ports teaming together with their customers, public stakeholders and custodians to achieve port call optimization, which in turn will lower greenhouse gas emissions.

This has a direct, positive impact on people within a port’s vicinity and beyond in a supply chain. Aside from estate ownership and management, Port authorities can simultaneously aim at regulating and improving safety and the environment whilst catering for the interests of its commercial partners.”

Port Call

Information for the media

For more information on this release, please contact:

Victor Shieh, Communications Partner at the World Ports Sustainability Program:

Tel +32 473 980 855 | Email:

Cpt. B.R.J. van Scherpenzeel, Chairman at Port Optimization Taskforce –

Tel: +32 10252 1337 | Email :


Founded in 1955, the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) is a not-for-profit global alliance of roughly 170 ports and 140 maritime companies and institutes representing about 90 countries. The IAPH is dedicated to fostering cooperation among ports and harbors and promoting the vital role they play in creating a peaceful, more prosperous world. IAPH has Consultative NGO Status from the United Nations and is active in developing international trade and maritime policy. IAPH member ports handle about 80 percent of world container traffic and more than 60 percent of all international maritime trade.

Port Optimization Taskforce

Shipping and ports are working together in an international taskforce promoting “Port Call Optimization” through improving quality and availability of master and event data which will deliver benefits to ports, shipping lines, terminals, service provides and society. The aim is for lower costs, cleaner environment, more reliability and safety for shipping, terminals and ports by means of two initiatives. The Avanti project aims to improve the quality and availability of master data such as depths and admission policies. This will ensure vessel – berth compatibility and a clear understanding when it is safe to arrive or leave. The Pronto project aims at improving the quality and availability of event data: for example, planned time of arrival berth and estimated time of completion cargo operations. This will enable just in time planning of pilot on board, pre-planning of all port services and planning to the next port.