The urgency of port call optimisation and Just in Time

5 Min read | January 10, 2024

To create operational visibility and optimise the port call process, a global, scalable standard is needed. The DCSA JIT standard, with its message format and open source API code, can get you started straight away.

The inefficiencies of port calls todayEvery day, ports around the world handle thousands of containers from vessels that must dock, discharge and load containers, and depart. The smooth-running of such a complex operation relies on information exchange. Stakeholders, principally carriers, port authorities and terminal operators, continually circulate information to manage vessel arrivals at, and departures from, ports. They must also co-ordinate port activities, such as bunkering and cargo unloading and loading, whilst vessels are docked.The port call process of today is highly inefficient. Unclear or missing communication about port call events means that ships hurry to port, only to wait outside the port area. According to S&P Global and World Bank, at the end of 2022, the global average arrival time (which includes port area arrival to all-fast at berth) in the world was 11 hours. In Q3 2021, it peaked at 11,5 hours average. All this hurrying to port causes unnecessary emissions, both during sailing as well as around port cities.Operational planning is much like a house of cards. A disruptive event, such as the delay of one vessel, heavily influences the operational planning of all port call events such as cargo operations and bunkering, and all subsequently connected nodes. It makes port call planning and all activities of that particular vessel, the vessels that follow it, the port, the terminal and the hinterland supply chain reactive and ad-hoc.The main reason for these inefficiencies is lack of communication, clarity and interoperability. The systems used by stakeholders don’t necessarily ‘talk’ to each other, so data cannot flow freely and quickly. Instead, EDI, emails and telephone calls are primarily used, which are slow, undocumented and can’t guarantee a response. Without unambiguous, high quality, standardised exchange of data from the correct data owner, stable planning of events in the port call is near-impossible.

Increasing trade demand means more ships and more equipment

The container fleet has increased, to 5,589 ships in 2022, and with global trade set to double in real terms and quadruple in dollar terms by 2050, the industry will need to keep on adding more equipment and more and bigger vessels to meet demand. But without a focus on efficiency and interoperability, this will surely result in even more waiting time at ports.Fortunately, digitalisation is delivering the necessary tooling for information exchange between port call partners. This includes smart port community systems, terminal operating systems, berth alignment tooling and AI-based voyage optimisation.However, with this comes an increased demand for these systems to connect. If there is no common language and no clear data and process ownership, it takes tremendous effort to establish a connection with every single port call partner with a different dialect of API, and create clarity in the process.For reference, if all the platforms create unique APIs, it takes significant IT development costs, in the region of $10,000 to $50,000 per API, without even looking at maintenance and updates.This is apart from making sure that the data is of sufficient quality and consistency so it can be visualised, analysed for trends and improvement opportunities, and automated. As stated in the Container Port Performance Index 2022, “Comparing operational performance across ports has been a major challenge for improving global value chains due to the lack of a reliable, consistent and comparable basis”.To summarise, a data standard from a neutral source is needed. One that uses globally aligned definitions, that is scalable, platform agnostic, neutral and usable. The DCSA JIT standard ticks all these boxes. The DCSA JIT standardDCSA’s JIT standard is built upon the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s framework for the negotiation of port call events: the Estimated – Requested – Planned negotiation cycle, as outlined in the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) Just in Time arrival guide.The DCSA JIT standard creates usability of the IMO framework by adding a message format, standardised process, and interface standard to facilitate implementation. It is a complete standard, including all the main port call activities, and the messages include all necessary attributes. Having said that, implementers can start with a small scope if they wish, implementing parts of the standard to start seeing benefits straightaway.The standard is platform agnostic, so parties who may not use the same technology platforms can still benefit from streamlined information exchange. It is free-to-use, neutral and open source, so anyone can access the code and get started immediately. Lastly, the standard is continuously aligned with other standards bodies and platforms in order to stay scalable and globally applicable.