Valencia port efficiency boosted by a community system



José García de la Guía, port community system manager, Valencia Port, Spain


The Port Authority of Valencia (PAV) is a state-owned public entity in charge of the management of three ports located along 80 kilometres of the eastern border of the Spanish Mediterranean coastline in the Valencia Region: namely, the ports of Sagunto, Valencia and Gandia. It has had a vigorous growth rate over more than twenty years, from 12.9 million tonnes in 1992 to over 66 million tonnes in 2012.

The main traffic in Valencia Port is containerised cargo (78 percent). There are other types of cargo such as solid bulk, liquid bulk and general cargo, including roll on- roll off (ro-ro) cargo and car traffic. As the result of this growth, Valencia Port has had continuous growth of container traffic in the last two decades and it is now leading Spanish and Mediterranean container ports rankings, 5th in Europe and 30th in the world.

Challenges for ports

A strategic plan was defined to give an answer to the changing environment the ports are involved in. The ‘container revolution’ has made it necessary to re-convert the ports from just space for operation with some cranes, to specialised installations. Containers have made it much faster and simpler to move goods but have also generated the need to manage big amounts of information in very short periods of time. The increasing size of vessels is reducing the number of ports that they can operate in, and increasing the traffic gap between hub and feeder ports.

Additionally, the market itself has changed. Lower transit times and more reliable schedules are required by the customers. Much higher safety and security requirements come from the regulators. And the effect of globalisation has brought the traffic growth. There’s a clear need to manage these complexities for ports.

Looking at the Valencia Port model

Valencia Port implements a mixed-hub model combining transhipment with local traffic. This model requires the technology and the infrastructure of a hub port and all the logistic complexity of an importexport port. The change in Valencia Port in the last ten years has been remarkable. The number of vessels calling at the port has had a small reduction, but the number of TEU has been multiplied by three, the vessels’ gross tonnage by 2.5. The average time to release an import container has been reduced from eight to two working days, which requires more and better synchronisation of operations. 

The continuous Valencia Port traffic growth has been possible due to the implementation of our strategic plan as defined in 2001. One of the four strategic axes was ‘Efficiency of port services’ including the initiative of the ‘digital port’. Since the 1980s Valencia Port has pledged a bet on information and communication technology (ICT) to improve its efficiency.

The Port Community System

There are as many models of the Port Community System (PCS) as there are ports implementing one of them. To understand a PCS we have to take into account four main factors. Firstly, define the target user e.g. port operators, public authorities, shipping lines/agents, container depots. Secondly, look at the business model and define who the PCS owner is. We can have fully privately-owned PCS, mixed private-public or public-owed, where the owner can be the port authority, the city or the government. If it is publicly owned, it must be defined whether or not the users pay for using the PCS. Thirdly, look at the operational model. This is more an ICT issue – it can be operated by the owner, by an ICT company, or by an ad-hoc created company. And finally, consider the range of services needed. All PCSs are different at this point and the three previous factors have a deep influence in this one. We can find PCSs that are just an extension of terminal’s operating system, others are just a single window to access port authority and/or customs and others offer a wide range of services including mixtures of business interfaces between business and government services.

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