The key to improving processes and boosting overall efficiency levels in the port of Rotterdam is simple, according to Port infolink: make relevant information easily accessible to everyone in the logistics chain. This organisation’s new online services are producing great results.
Handling nearly 380 million tonnes of goods each year, the port of Rotterdam is the most important entry gate for products bound for Europe. 500 sea-going vessels and barges, several thousand trucks and dozens of trains arrive every day. Such volumes pose vast logistical challenges and, in order to facilitate further growth, the Port of Rotterdam Authority established a wholly owned subsidiary focusing on efficiency improvements in the port. It was founded in 2002 and named Port infolink.
The need for a community system
“The Port of Rotterdam Authority saw the huge potential of a community system that could manage the information flow in the port’s logistics chain,” says Bart Roozekrans, Managing Director of Port infolink. “Individually, all the actors in the port - shipping agents, Customs, rail operators, ship owners and others - were doing an excellent job. But the cooperation between them regarding the conveyance of goods was not satisfactory. The bottleneck was information management.”
Port infolink asked the consultancy company CIBIT, now part of DNV IT Global Services, to administer the architectural design and development of the new central port community system.
“It was important for us to use an independent technical advisor with a high level of integrity and with no connections to the large programming houses. We also needed a company that could design a highly scalable yet cost-efficient system to cope with future services. CIBIT assisted us throughout the entire process and made our vision come true. It turned our ideas into a fully operational business community system,” states Mr Roozekrans.
Five million phone calls saved
At present, Port infolink offers 18 online services to its 3,000 users in order to make cargo management and transportation more effective. Shipping companies are now able to inform the port about their vessels’ arrival well in advance and provide port facilitators with information on their onboard cargo. An optimal data exchange between shipping companies, Customs, terminals and transporters has been implemented, keeping disruptions related to Customs inspections to a minimum. Transporters can use information about the cargo’s status and actual position in the logistics chain to optimally plan their arrival and avoid unnecessary waiting times and trips.
The optimal planning and smooth transition of goods has minimised costs and error rates and improved efficiency. Port infolink’s services have increased activity in the port without the need for hiring additional manpower or expanding the port area. Since everything is processed electronically, the need for paperwork and human interaction has been greatly reduced. Customs alone now produces 250 metres less paper and makes five million fewer phone calls every year.
“Our central port community system produces great results because we make the logistics chain more transparent. But we don’t define ourselves as an IT company; we are a change advisor, facilitating cargo handling by making information accessible, useful and a key asset in planning. We suggest new procedures and supply connectivity, so that others can be proactive and achieve their maximum potential,” explains Mr Roozekrans.
Port infolink is working closely with the business community to develop additional services to improve the work flow even more.
“The port users are our starting point. When we discover a need, it takes us about six months before our new related service is ready for pilot testing. Once it has been approved for launch, we put heavy emphasis on training and support to ensure that the users are comfortable using the service and make full use of its benefits,” says Mr Roozekrans.
Mr Roozekrans is in no doubt that community systems are absolutely essential in order to make large ports like Rotterdam prosper and grow.
“This is a necessary change. The information has always been available, but now it is systemised and shared with those that need it. Success cannot be achieved if innovation only resides within the individual companies, we all need to collaborate.”
Text: JOACIM LUNDE
Date: 25 October 2007