Port community systems: a vital role to play



Richard Morton, secretary general, European Port Community Systems Association, Brussels, Belgium


The EU Directive

The EU Directive 2010/65 on reporting formalities for ships sets a clear deadline: by 1 June 2015, all EU member states must accept electronic reports via a Single Window.

To clarify, these new requirements apply to the reporting formalities applicable to maritime transport for ships arriving in and ships departing from ports in EU countries. The aim is to provide the business community with a streamlined process for submitting export and import information to customs and other government agencies.

“Every EU country must ensure that the reporting formalities at their ports are requested in a harmonized and coordinated manner,” states the Directive summary.

It adds: “EU countries shall accept electronic reports via a Single Window as soon as possible and, at the latest, by 1 June 2015. The Single Window will be the place where all information is reported once and made available to various competent authorities and the EU countries.”

As members of the European Port Community Systems Association point out, there are obvious and important parallels with existing port community systems and the operators of these systems are already well placed to take up the Single Window challenge.

“Port community systems can, and will, play a major role as Europe moves towards the Single Window concept,” says EPCSA chairman Pascal Ollivier, who is director of corporate development at the French PCS operator SOGET. “The implementation of 2010/65 is a major project for EPCSA’s business applications committee. Port community systems can act as clearing centers; we emphasize that 2010/65 implementation should harmonize on a European level.”

EPCSA and port community systems

When EPCSA was first set up at the end of 2010, its founding members made clear their intention to provide an important source of expert opinion with regard to any new Directive being considered, says Ollivier. “And we will continue to offer clear and concise direction and give support in the practical implementation of European Commission policy. We can save the European Commission time, money and effort by creating a picture of what is already possible.”

In many cases, the first priority was to explain exactly what a port community system does.

They are, of course, all about simplifying the complexities of day to day trade across Europe. Customs, forwarders, shippers, shipping lines, terminal operators, inspection agencies, hauliers and railway operators – all of these, and more, need access to smart, real time information.

The electronic platform provided by a port community system is at the heart of the ‘spider’s web’ of the logistics intelligence required for smooth trading, relaying messages and enabling the re-use of data wherever possible, so that the many stakeholders involved need enter their data only once. The alternative can be a sea of paper, allied with inefficiencies, inaccuracies and far too much duplication of work.

“In the business processes of port logistics, the port community systems are well established, which means that they already have active interfaces with most of the carriers, terminals and local authorities,” says Mr Ollivier. “After a first analysis of the reporting formalities listed in the Directive 2010/65, it should be noted that today a significant part of the messages is already communicated via the port community system. The remaining messages could be created from existing reports, possibly by adapting the set of data.”

EPCSA is recommending that the port community system should take over the function of a clearing center – including receiving messages, processing the data in accordance with the requirements, and forwarding these messages to the stakeholders and authorities, or to a Single Window.

“The advantages of the port community system acting as clearing center are obvious,” says Alan Long, managing director of Felixstowe based Maritime Cargo Processing, another founding member of EPCSA.

“Port community systems act as a trusted third party, guaranteeing the confidentiality of all players involved. Double input or notifications by the stakeholders can be avoided. The existing infrastructure in the ports can be used further – that means no additional investments in new infrastructure, and also that it will enable faster implementation of the Directive.”


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