SDP 2021: Ports must adapt business models to seize opportunities

SDP 2021: Ports must adapt business models to seize opportunities

Ports are increasingly seeing the need to transform their traditional business models and there has been an acceleration in the need for data sharing and collaboration across the supply chain.

The maritime sector has undergone numerous changes in recent years and ports have had to change the way they work in order to be hubs of connectivity and not just thoroughfares for cargo.

Speaking during the ‘C-Level Panel: Considering New Business Models for Ports’ session on Day 4 of Smart Digital Ports of the Future 2021 (SDP2021), Carles Rua, Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), Port of Barcelona, said ports have to change their approach.

Rua explained that ports traditionally saw container shipping lines as their primary customers and its operations were specifically designed to attract them. However, a modern port should now look to stakeholders across the supply chain and place themselves at the centre of companies’ logistics strategies.

Most of these customers, Rua said, are not in the port and include manufacturers and exporters that are looking to make their supply chains as straightforward and seamless as possible.

“The new business model for a port should be to construct the supply chain and this involves collaboration with shipping lines and inland terminals, truck operators etc to accomplish the needs of customers,” Rua claimed.

Rua expanded by saying customers’ supply chains increasingly include requirements such as time to market, which means ports must think about how cargo is stored and also the speed at which it leaves the yard. This means finding new ways to work and investing in smart technologies.

“Collaboration is key, and we need it across the supply chain. Digitalisation will help us a lot in this.”

The need for digitalisation has become more important for ports as volume demand as increased and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent suspension of the Suez Canal, become more unpredictable.

Rua said ports should have to get used to trade fluctuations and that it is likely to continue into the future as they adjust to fewer calls from larger vessels.

While the pandemic has caused chaos in many parts of the world, according to Dr Phanthian Zuesongdham, Head of Division Port Process Solution, Ham burg Port Authority it has also encouraged more data sharing and collaboration, who said that digitalisation has “become a default” in some strategies.

This view was broadly shared by Keith Halifax, Chief Financial Officer, Flinders Port Holdings, who said that the pandemic has led to a greater sense of how data works in ports and the supply chain in Australia and that collaboration between government departments and stakeholders has improved.

Not only have policy makers learned to understand the importance of data but also the role of ports themselves. According to Julian Walker, Chief Commercial Officer, Associated British Ports (ABP), there is a greater understanding in the UK of how important ports are to the economy.

Since Brexit there have been huge government initiatives to improve port infrastructure and the UK’s supply chain, including a recent announcement that a number of hubs will have freeport status. According to Walker, a key specification for a freeport in the UK is its level of data-led innovation and potential to improve trade.

The government, Walker said, has been forward thinking and seen the present situation as an opportunity for the maritime industry.

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