Finding the right port operations solution

Authorship

IBS Group, Trivandrum, India

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Introduction

Port operations worldwide are becoming more and more complex with the ever increasing movement of vessels, cargo and containers. From an overall logistics and supply chain point of view, this complexity leads to creation of bottlenecks in ports, resulting in costly delays. Larger vessels, complex mix of cargo, limited-handling
capabilities in ports, changing operational needs and the billing of a large number of operations based on the contracts and special agreements magnify the complexity of the situation.

Transportation services are fast developing into an integral part of production and marketing strategies; carriers have become supply chain managers and port users have assumed the role of multimodal operators. Ports are being transformed into areas where highly sophisticated logistics activities are coordinated. Disparate events ranging from the pre-notification of vessel and cargo arrivals, marine operations, container and cargo discharge/ loading cargo receipt/delivery to invoicing of the various services rendered, all form part of an integrated supply chain.

Technology for managing ports

Use of IT for managing ports has therefore become essential and the primary area where IT can make a real difference is port operations. IT systems can help track services requested by port customers and send responses in real time, delivered to their satisfaction, bill for the services rendered and collect charges. In addition, they can help provide quick turn-around times of vessels and cargo, ensure high productivity, and monitor the key result areas in real time.

Identification of the right solution for your
port

Identifying and selecting a suitable proven software solution to meet the requirements of an individual port can pose another hallenge. The functional and technical features of the product, the architecture, the capability of the solution to be deployed in the internet securely, its maintainability etc. needs to be kept in mind while selecting the system. While specialised terminals such as container terminals have uniform practices and processes for their operations, the same cannot be said about other types of ports or terminals.

No two ports are identical in their operations, even within the same country or region for various reasons. Hence, a software product running successfully in one port may not fit the requirements of another. Implementation of an IT solution in a port can be quite a task in itself. It may involve, mapping of the processes of the port to the software product, streamlining and redesigning the work flows, customising the software to meet the exact requirements, training of personnel, building IT  infrastructure to operate the mission critical application in a secure environment, managing the change etc.

Against this background, the features of the software product alone are not sufficient to ensure successful implementation. A port should choose a partner with a high degree of expertise in the maritime domain plus the technical capability to customise/ modify the software to match the ground realities of the port and its operations. The partner should also have the ability to hand hold the port administration during implementation and manage the changes successfully. Most importantly, the partner must be in a position to provide effective post implementation support since the maturity of the processes in the port evolves over a period of time as the users start using the system for some time.

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