Industry needs to ‘meet in the middle’ on port call optimisation

Industry needs to ‘meet in the middle’ on port call optimisation
The panel discussion at London International Shipping Week

In order to make port call optimisation a reality, regulators and ports must ‘meet in the middle’ to build trust and greater collaboration, according to experts at a panel discussion during London International Shipping Week.

The panel was hosted by IHS Markit and the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH), and had speakers from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Port of Rotterdam and more.

Port call optimisation a process which helps to enable just-in-time (JIT) operations within maritime logistics and allow for quicker turnaround of ships at berth and as a topic it has been pushed into the spotlight thanks to environmental concern and digitalisation.

Patrick Verhoeven, managing director of IAPH, explained: “What we’re talking about is really fundamentally about improving communication and data exchange between all the parties in that nautical chain so that ships can indeed arrive in time at the berth.”

IMO’s technical officer Camille Bourgeon pointed out that port call optimisation and the ability for vessels to slow steam goes hand in hand with the IMO’s greenhouse gas emission targets for 2050.

Other advantages to port call optimisation, as highlighted by Captain Ben van Scherpenzeel, director of nautical developments, policy and plans at the Port of Rotterdam, include helping to avoid collisions, hull fouling and making it easier for capacity planning.

Scherpenzeel spoke about the need for increasing co-operation between various stakeholders to push port call optimisation forward.

As the chairman of the task force for port call optimisation, Scherpenzeel discussed how it could be the perfect platform for greater stakeholder engagement while IHS Markit demonstrated the commercial benefits of optimising port calls through data collected from the company’s Port Productivity Project.

Issues still remain around data sharing, standardisation of terminology, established speed agreements in charter contracts and the fact that capabilities vary within vessels, ports and other stakeholders however.

In the panel discussion Nick Cutmore, secretary-general at the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA), said that the way to achieve global standardisation should come from those in the industry, rather than regulators like IMO.

Cutmore said: “It’s better to come from the industry, we know what is required and I think there’s enough expertise within the port sector and all the allied services to generate what’s necessary to make this work.”

Verhoeven mostly agreed with Cutmore, although highlighted that a clear IMO framework for port call optimisation and JIT operation was necessary to offer guidance and leadership to the industry.

Sabrina Delelis, International Harbour Masters Association secretary, held the same opinion with the belief that a broader and simplified information campaign would be needed due to the variations across ports. She added: “I think there’s some small ports where it’s not even come up in conversation.”

The port call optimisation discussion is set to continue during the IAPH World Ports Conference 2020 which will be held in Antwerp, Belgium in March.