Maybe you remember the very first time you went to the airport to catch a flight all by yourself.
With no parents or friends to turn to, and the ordeal of check-in, passports, security and finding the right gate ahead of you, you might well have felt bewildered, uncertain and even alarmed – amidst a sea of people who so clearly understood exactly what they had to do, and in what order!
Small and medium sized ports could well feel the same way when considering the development and implementation of a Port Community System. It might all seem second nature for those working in large ports and major container terminals around the world – after all, PCSs have been working well in some of these for more than 40 years. But for a smaller or medium sized port, it’s often a case of ‘where do I even start?’.
Understanding the challenges, the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) has developed a specific set of ‘Guidelines on PCSs for Small and Medium Sized Ports’, to provide advice, support and – crucially – encouragement!
As we all know, Covid-19 is leading many to fast-forward their digitalisation journeys. In fact, even before the pandemic, many were already considering plans to develop a PCS. Perhaps this is where our ‘solo flight’ comparison ends. Because although the principles of a PCS are the same for every port, the drivers and the financial resources are often very different for small and medium sized ports when compared to the larger operations. These smaller ports might even be questioning whether it’s the right solution for them.
IPCSA’s Guidelines help ports assess their readiness for the development and implementation of a PCS and provide a simple, clear checklist of the steps to take.
Starting with understanding what a PCS actually is, the Guidelines cover a digital review of other systems in place, stakeholder engagement business and operating models, IT infrastructure options, data security, planning, communication, standards and technology.
A particularly important recommendation is to avoid a ‘Big Bang’ – start small with one process at a time and remember that trying to do everything at once tends to be more costly and also leads to a higher risk of problems. ‘Share’ is another key message – sharing, communicating and trusting are all essential parts of a successful PCS. Share your plan and review it with all stakeholders – don’t be afraid to admit if something is wrong and you need to look again!
And finally: “In order to stay the same, you have to change.” It’s vital to constantly review the business and operating model and be prepared to change it; to plan for the unexpected; to review services and processes; and to redefine the PCS and its model as it evolves.
IPCSA Last Word
As ports digitalise, so more and more opportunities arise to share port-to-port and cross-border information. But trust, and a neutral solution, is key to this kind of sharing.
Swift to respond, IPCSA has uniquely developed a neutral enabling platform, the Network of Trusted Networks (NoTN). Officially launched on 1 July, the NoTN allows PCSs to share and exchange data simply and effectively, through simplified administrative agreements.