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Ports need to share data to strengthen supply chain efficiencies

THE US Port of Long Beach is encouraging the use of digitisation and information sharing as part of a supply chain optimisation programme to speed up the flow of cargo flow.

The port is investing US$4 billion this decade on infrastructure projects to facilitate the handling of mega-ships. However modern terminals and expanded road and rail connectors alone will be unable to accelerate cargo handling, the port's chief commercial officer Noel Hacegaba told the PortCon conference in Long Beach.

Long Beach port is evolving to be able to partner with its stakeholders in developing an end-to-end supply chain based on greater visibility of cargo and predictive analytics. "Knowing when the container is going to arrive is the key," Mr Hacegaba was quoted as saying in a report by IHS Media.

The International Transportation Service (ITS) terminal in Long Beach is piloting a system of information sharing and predictive analytics, he said.

Over in Los Angeles, the port is collaborating with GE Transportation to pilot a port information portal built on data sharing among two carriers, a terminal operator, truckers and beneficial cargo owners (BCOs). Los Angeles is now opening up the portal to all port users.

Chief strategy officer Allen Thomas at Advent Intermodal Solutions, which is managing the ITS project in Long Beach, said digitisation of the information flow from the manufacturer to the carrier, terminal operator, freight intermediary, trucker, railroad and distribution warehouse will eliminate the wasteful transfer of paper documents between supply chain members.

"The better this works, the faster cargo moves," Mr Thomas said. The pace of change is occurring much more rapidly than the freight transportation industry is used to, and the first adopters to get it right will win, he said.

Variables that must be managed in the international supply chain include identifying the time of vessel arrival and when the container will be available for pickup, making an appointment for the trucker, arranging an intermodal handoff and designating the destination.

Los Angeles and Long Beach are encouraging trucker appointment systems that allow terminal operators to manage truck flow into their facilities and ensure truckers quick access to their containers. Nine of the 12 terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach have trucker appointment systems, Mr Hacegaba said.

In order to build a "smart" port, reliable and secure connectivity of port users through a port-wide communications network is necessary, said KNS Communications business development director Don Leyn.

Elements of the smart port include Wi-Fi access to the mobile fleet, security cameras, optical character readers, and radio frequency identification tracking of equipment.
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