While proponents of digitization predicted big gains as ports and the logistics chain realized the benefits of new technologies, it appears that much of the progress has been limited to the largest ports. While digital technologies are promoted as a tool to improve productivity, reduce paper movement and even direct interaction in the COVID era.
Most ports are still not getting the new technologies and the growing digital divide is creating new risks for shipping and logistics.
Of the 4,900 ports worldwide, most have yet to introduce digital technologies, even for the most basic functions, reports Innovez-One, a provider of port management software. They report that 80% of ports continue to apply manual solutions.
Beyond not having the ability to use digital technologies such as an electronic bill of lading, they report that ports still rely on spreadsheets or even something as simple as a whiteboard to manage marine services such as towing, pilotage and launch boats. We can sense a resistance to change, in this area.
The digital divide becomes increasingly clear when looking at large Tier 1 ports with the profile and financial capabilities to reap the benefits of digitization, while many Tier 2 and smaller ports have not had the capacity to incorporate digital technologies to replace manual paper.
In addition to inefficiencies, it creates a greater potential for delays, late payments, increased fuel consumption and emissions, reduced revenues and even security issues stemming from lack of traceability.
“The current dynamics reflect the often messy reality of port operations, which is a combination of high-tech manual digital and paper-based processes side by side,” says David Yeo, CEO of Innovez-One.
“This causes problems in relation to interoperability, where systems do not communicate with each other properly, preventing effective execution. However, it also highlights the fact that while global supply chains are becoming increasingly automated, of which ports are an integral part, most ports still rely overwhelmingly on person-to-person systems.”
However, Yeo believes that this current dynamic need not continue and that the vast majority of ports are unnecessarily missing out on the opportunity to reap the benefits of digitization, particularly when affordable, fast ROI and easy-to-use technology is available.
Specifically, using smart technology and artificial intelligence models to optimize and solve complex last mile towing and pilotage challenges, and in doing so, create a fair and level playing field within the global port market.