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Siim Kallas - Europe’s ports must be better connected across the wider transport network.

Siim Kallas – Europe’s ports must be better connected across the wider transport network.

The following article featured in Port Stratetgy and penned by Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of transport policy, offers some sound views on how ports and regional networks ought to harmonise to ensure their competitiveness.

Europe’s prosperity has always been linked to sea trade and ports, which have great potential for sustaining growth in the years ahead. As gateways to the EU’s entire transport network, they are engines of economic development. And more cargo, cruise ships and ferries in our ports mean more jobs.

Europe depends heavily on its seaports, which handle 74% by volume of the goods exported or imported to the EU and from the rest of the world. Not only are they important for foreign trade and local growth, ports are the key for developing an integrated and sustainable transport system, as we work to get trucks off our saturated land transport corridors and make more use of short sea shipping.

Need to adapt

Even with only modest assumptions of economic growth, port cargo volumes are expected to rise by 57% by 2030, almost certainly causing congestion. In 20 years, Europe’s hundreds of seaports will face major challenges in performance, investment needs, sustainability, human resources and integration with port cities and regions.

So our ports need to adapt. Take the next generation of ultra-large vessels that carry 18,000 containers. Put onto trucks, these containers would stretch in a single line from Rotterdam to Paris. To accommodate them, ports need to provide the adequate depth, crane reach and shipyard space. There is also a growing need for gas carriers and gasification facilities.

Efficiency and performance vary a great deal around Europe. Many EU ports perform very well – take Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg, which handle 20% of all goods. But not all ports offer the same high-level service. Port network connections and trade flows are well developed in northern Europe, but much less so the south.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link: if a few ports do not perform well, it affects the sustainable functioning of Europe’s entire transport network and economy – which needs to recover and see long-term growth.

Preparing for the future

Ports must be prepared for the future. This means improving local connections to the wider road, rail and inland waterways networks; fully optimising services to make the best use of ports as they are now; and creating a business climate to attract the investments that are so badly needed if capacity is to expand, as it must do.

Unlike other transport sectors, there is almost no EU ports legislation, on access to services, financial transparency or charging for infrastructure use. Experience from the last 15 years shows that the market cannot solve the problem itself; the lack of equal competition conditions and restrictions to port market access are barriers to improving performance, attracting investments and creating jobs. We need to act.

Our proposal to review EU ports policy focuses on the ports of the trans-European Transport Network, which accounts for 96% of goods and 95% of passengers transiting through the EU ports system. Firstly, if ports are to adapt to new economic, industrial and social requirements, they must have a competitive and open business environment.

Freedom to provide services, with no discrimination, should be a general principle; although in cases of space constraints or public interest, the responsible port authority should ensure that decisions granting market access are transparent, proportionate and non-discriminatory. Transparency of public port financing should also be improved, to avoid distortions of competition and make clear where public money is going. This will encourage more private investors, who need long-term stability and legal certainty.

On charging for using infrastructure, where there is no uniform EU model, port authorities should be more autonomous and set charges themselves. But this must be done based on objective, non-discriminatory and transparent criteria. Ports should also be able to reduce charges for ships with better environmental performance.

Staying competitive

We also plan to help our ports stay competitive by cutting more red tape and administrative formalities to boost their efficiency even further. As in many other economic sectors, staffing needs in ports are changing rapidly and there is a growing need to attract port workers. Without a properly trained workforce and skilled people, ports cannot function. The Commission estimates that up to 165,000 new jobs will be created in ports by 2030.

Modern port services and a stable environment must also involve modern organisation of work and social provisions. Many countries have reformed and the benefits of doing so can be clearly seen. Experience in Member States which have implemented ports reforms show that open and proper discussions between the parties involved can make a real difference. So we want to give this a chance first, over three years, to see what can be achieved. If that does not produce results, we will have to consider taking action.

To stimulate resource-efficient growth and trade, Europe’s ports must be better connected across the wider transport network. They must make sure they are able to develop and respond to change. This is what the European Commission aims to achieve, for the long-term benefit of the ports sector, local business and the environment. Source: Portstrategy.com

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The supply of proven port executives is drying up. Credit: Off beat Mum

The supply of proven port executives is drying up. Credit: Off beat Mum

Indeed the pool of experienced business expertise is in short supply and dwindling towards extinction. The following article published by Port Strategy reveals a pattern not only affecting employment trends in the international port business, but one which exists in just about every other industry of the international supply chain, the Customs included.

Successive years of hammering home the crewing ‘crisis’ message have firmly ingrained the matter on our minds: red alert, a dearth of qualified seafarers is about to bring the industry to its knees. However, that record has been re-played for at least the last two decades and the anticipated crisis has yet to materialise.

But there is a more pressing employment crisis in our very own backyard, if recruitment specialists are to be believed. With the growth of terminals coming on a pace, there is a demand for C-level executives with a proven track record in bringing start-ups to life. However, by definition this is a very select pool of individuals and these individuals can only be stretched so far.

Years ago, the industry would have handled CVs with regular eighteen month hops to pastures new with extreme caution: ‘a lack of commitment’… ‘ambition over loyalty’… ‘chasing the buck rather than the ambitions of the job’. Yet now, browse some port chief executive profiles and eighteen months could be considered a long term commitment as these sought after individuals jump from one top hot seat to the next to bring terminals up to speed in a matter of months rather than years.

Many are very successful, so perhaps I shouldn’t knock their career drivers. However, the whole exercise demonstrates how very reliant we are as an industry on an elite group of port positioning gurus.

With global container port throughput expected to grow by an average of around 7.5% a year over the next six years, how are we going to find the top brass to steer these terminals on the right course?

A specialist recruitment head-hunter recently confirmed to me that we are facing a challenge. It is already difficult to find the right people for positions that can often be in inhospitable environments, expecting them to uproot family and move lock, stock to a new country and culture.

And if we can find enough of these magic-makers, is the industry willing to pay for their worth? In a word, no, my recruitment colleague tells me. This is simple economics: the pot of suitable candidates contracts, the salary they can command goes up.

Port authorities and global operators need to wise up to the fact that not only is it becoming increasingly difficult to source talent – with no sign of improvement any time soon – but they will need to dig deeper if they want to win over that talent before another operator sweeps them off the available list. Source: Portstrategy.com

In an interview with The Maritime Executive, Peter Kant, executive vice president for Rapiscan Systems informed that the primary business of a port is serving as a hub for water-borne commerce and all of the logistics that entails, with each port competing for the business of shippers and container operators. Every investment made by a port authority, from a crane to a dredge to a security checkpoint, must be based on how this activity will not only position the port to current customers, but how it will affect the attraction of future customers.

Increasingly, however, these investments are including more and more security needs, from container scanning equipment to operator training to security architectures. Security, and in particular security screening, is not the core business of a ports authority, but compliance with national and international guidelines demands that certain security standards be met, or losing customers will be the last of a port authority’s worries.

But even though security screening is an absolute necessity, many ports are looking to get out of the security game altogether. But will the departure from security make ports less secure…or could it actually enhance cargo scanning operations?

The Heavy Burden of Screening
As mentioned earlier, port authorities are not experts when it comes to security, especially a task as granular as cargo screening. It’s not just about a “mean guard and a magnet” when it comes to screening anymore, and this especially holds true to the world of maritime cargo. First, the right technology must be installed, a solution that can effectively analyze cargo for potential contraband or threats, both conventional and radioactive. Then, a port authority must determine the best location for the screening checkpoint, and oversee the construction of the location, both in terms of port impact and traffic optimization.

Next come the installation and calibration of the scanning technology, as well as the hiring and training of security operators. The authority must also establish a workflow for what happens when a container is flagged – what requires a manual inspection? Who approves such an operation? What remediation must take place after the fact?

The fact of the matter is, cargo scanning isn’t just about putting containers through an X-ray machine. It’s much, much more than that, and consumes enough time that establishing and running a checkpoint can adversely affect port business.

But there is an easier way to run cargo screening operations. Port authorities are experts in maritime commerce, so why shouldn’t they turn to experts in security screening to run cargo scanning operations?

Cargo Scanning-as-a-Service
Rather than trying to become cargo screening experts overnight, port authorities can take advantage of a major trend in the overall security world: security-screening-as-a-service. Essentially, port operators form a partnership with an experienced security screening solutions provider, tasking the provider, not the port, with the onus of establishing and running a cargo scanning checkpoint.

Other than the obvious benefit of freeing the port authority from the security logistics headache, why turn to cargo screening as a service? For one, 100 percent screening in the United States has not gone away…at least not yet. But even if the requirements on cargo entering the USA are loosened, port screening for contraband is not going to decrease – in this economic climate, governments want to ensure that everything that can be taxed is taxed. This is a nightmare scenario for port authorities to deal with, but one with which screening solutions provider are comfortable. With their experience in the field, these providers can find the right equipment and checkpoint set-up to be as thorough and detailed as needed when it comes to cargo scanning, ensuring that not only are potential threats detected, but any contraband can be swiftly dealt with by the appropriate authorities.

Going with an experienced screening partner can also add radiation detection capabilities, a growing problem in the world of maritime commerce. Radioactive materials, either improperly labeled or being shipped as contraband, can shut ports down for days and are impossible to detect via conventional cargo screening technologies. By utilizing screening-as-a-service, however, port authorities can place this additional burden on the solutions provider, which has the experience and the right capabilities to detect radiation alongside conventional contraband and threats.

Training of security operators is another headache that cargo scanning as a service eliminates for the port. The difference between a major international incident and millions of dollars in fines can hinge entirely on the competency of a security screening operator. Do port authorities really want to be responsible for the skills of these professionals, especially when it’s in a field far outside of their comfort zones?

With cargo scanning as a service, training falls into the lap of the solutions provider, a task with which they are well familiar. Because they have built, installed and maintained the security technologies selected, these organizations best understand how to train professionals on the ins-and-outs of analyzing scanned images and detecting potential threats and contraband.

The service also gives ports a major competitive advantage, as a well-designed, specially-staff cargo scanning checkpoint makes the entire security process far easier for customers to deal with. Throughput is often increased, meaning that cargo makes it to its end destination more quickly and with fewer roadblocks, a paramount concern for shippers everywhere. Even a few hours delay can be costly, especially when perishable goods like imported produce are involved.

The Real World
Perhaps most importantly, cargo-scanning-as-a-service is not a pipe dream or some theoretical solution for ports. It’s already in practice and being used by some of the largest customs and port operations in the world.

The Ports Authority of Puerto Rico, for example, utilizes cargo-screening-as-a-service from a customs perspective, ensuring that no contraband is entering the island through its major ports. By enlisting an outside, specialized security solutions provider, the Port has increased throughput without sacrificing the integrity of its customs or security operations.

The Mexican Customs Authority has also turned to a wide-ranging cargo-screening-as-a-service solution for their operations, both land-locked and maritime. The major project has just recently been undertaken, but ultimately the vast majority of Mexican ports will soon be turning to screening-as-a-service when it comes to cargo, freeing the ports to focus on the business, not contraband detection.

Detecting threats and contraband via maritime cargo is not going to get any easier. If anything, smugglers, criminals and terrorist organizations are becoming more and more clever when it comes to getting illicit goods, weapons and hazardous materials across national borders. Port authorities trying to stay one step ahead of these issues are in for a struggle, as other aspects of the port business suffer.

Keep the port operator’s attention where it belongs (on the port) and let specialized experts handle the cargo scanning burden. It’s proven, it works, and it’s the best way forward to maritime prosperity and safety. Source: The Maritime Executive

The International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) has joined the World Shipping Council (WSC) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in urging the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish an international legal requirement that all loaded containers be weighed at the marine port facility before they are stowed aboard a vessel for export. In what has been a much publicized issue since 2008 in the maritime industry, much the same view is taken by customs administrations. Like many other changes in the supply chain, it is a lot easier said than done. Modern ports are designed and developed taking into account requirements for weight bridges, radiation portal monitors, networks to monitor vehicle and container movements in and around port precincts, and inland transportation routes. While the expense and budget for these are usually borne by the relevant port authority, would it not indeed be good if those responsible for the packing/stuffing of containers took it upon themselves to ensure the correct weight, quantity and content are properly declared?

Refer to the joint WSC/ICS paper on “Solving the Problem of Overweight Containers” as well as the ICS’s “Safe Transport of Containers by Sea”. Both are self explanatory and short enough so as not to be considered laborious. In the South African context the question of who packed the box is often unanswered given that a variety of entities could be involved in this activity. In some instances it could be a container depot operator or a freight forwarding and consolidation agent; depending on how ‘safety and compliant conscious’ the shipper wants to be. While it will still take some time before the entire supply chain becomes properly regulated and monitored, now’s the time for ‘operators’ to take stock of what might in future be a new standard. New standards mean more capital outlay with pass-on costs for which the shipper ultimately carries the can.

Port Community SystemSince the mid-1980’s the concept of port community systems have abounded in various guises. Portnet (now Transnet Port Terminals / National Ports Authority) initiated a drive around this time as well, however the maturity of B-2-B e-commerce, at the time, was in its infancy and there were simply not enough ‘takers’ due to the unknowns such as ‘cost’ and ‘what’s in it for me’. Similarly, the air cargo community – in Europe especially – operated what was called ‘cargo community systems’ (CCS), most of which were operated by a value added network operator who provided the infrastructure and together with an ‘industry/community’ project team developed all the necessary transaction interchanges to facilitate data exchange between participating trade and logistics entities. Some of these CCS’s interfaced with Customs, but mainly serviced the forwarding and cartage community. Towards the end of 1998, South Africa established its very own known as ZA-CCS. Like Portnet’s endeavour, it was perhaps ahead of its time with very few participants to support the anchor sponsor, being the South African Airways. Two years later SARS implemented its EDI programme, and so developed a new era in information exchange for the customs clearing fraternity. The number of service providers also increased to support a burgeoning need for ICT capability. Mainframe systems gave way to thin client and PC-based solutions making it all the more affordable and accessible to the greater trading community.

In the US, Los Angeles has spent considerably more installing security cameras than ports have spent in other countries on setting up a Port Community System. However these have yet to prove their worth in the lucrative US market. Much like the voyages of discovery to the New World 500 years ago, Port Community Systems are taking their time to spread beyond Asia and Europe. In the US, they are virtually unknown outside their uses in security and safety.

European ports have undoubtedly benefitted from PCS in varying forms. An outstanding system is Portbase, linking Rotterdam and Amsterdam in virtually every activity. So far, 40 different services are offered, with Notification of Dangerous Goods next in line. The big test in extending Portbase lies in fitting the programme into less homogenous conditions elsewhere.

At Gothenburg in Sweden, the most significant aspect was integrating with the government systems, regulations and requirements – especially in areas such as control of dangerous goods and waste disposal. The single window application is a key to success. Based on a module approach, three sub-programs – the Vessel Clearance System, Marine Service System, and Cargo Management System – cover the spectrum of operations linking port customers, users, management and government authorities.

In developed countries the differences are marginal when new systems are set up, because every port is already heavily computerised. In emerging markets even the most basic computer system can mean a huge step forward. It’s also a big plus when free trade agreements are signed. Customs administrations will zero in on the most efficient port as the designated Trade Zone or bonded manufacturing facility. The more efficient a port, the more likely that it will be used as a trade lane.

In the US, the focus of information exchange is almost solely on safety and security, a consequence of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Commercial and operational information sharing is almost non-existent, and the reason is the extremely competitive culture that pervades business.

The universal opinion is that terminal operators and port authorities jealously guard their business models and details from rivals. It’s all a case of ‘you jump in first’. There is a total refusal to be the first to set up a system – the competitors would be only too happy to plunder the information without giving anything back in return. In complete contrast, the approach to security and safety is “the more the better“. (In South Africa we refer to it as a ‘data rich’ environment). These are undoubtedly interesting times we live in. Source: PortStrategy.com.