Looking inland: Harness digitisation for supply chains success

Inland cargo ship on a canal

The entire supply chain from oceangoing carriers through the ports to the hinterland is facing tough times ahead unless digitisation becomes more than just a topic for discussion.

Just this week we heard two examples of where digitisation is needed, somewhat urgently, in inland shipping.

First, inland shipping could be severely impacted unless it does not seriously take up data sharing and soon, according to one industry commentator.

Trust is lacking in inland waterways as those inland do not share the right information with other ports and logistics partners.

This is the reason behind the launch of a new platform to standardise data exchange for inland shipping, from a European coalition involving the Ports of Antwerp-Bruges, Oostende,and North Sea Port alongside the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services and the Joint Nautical Management.

There certainly is a sense of urgency to finding a solution to this lack of data exchange.

Spealing to PTI, Jef Bauwens, Project Manager of Smart Logistics at the River Information Services at De Vlaamse Waterweg nv, said, “If we don’t anything today then in 10 years or 20 years we will be non-existent.”

It is still surprising that in today’s talk of digital tools and the offerings out there that analogue communication and paper-based transactions are still heavily replied upon in the industry.

In Russia, Global Ports Terminals said pinch points in the inland supply chain – such as terminals at border crossings and railway hubs –  suffer from a lack of capacity and investment in physical and smart infrastructure.

“The development of unified paperless documentation flows is much needed,” Global Ports said, due to the number of participants in the transit supply chain.

The terminal itself has been investing to reduce the need for paper-based transactions, but it appears this has not yet reached the inland shipping.

As the supply chain considers the use of inland shipping, and rail, as an alternative to emission heavy road transportation there is likely to be more call for digital initiatives in this area.

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