Maritime transport remains the main gateway to the global marketplace. Resourceful and well-connected ports are essential for reducing transportation costs, connecting supply chains, and supporting global trade. Consequently, port efficiency is an important competitive advantage that could set ports apart.
As the world enters a new decade of digital transformation, major shipping leaders have begun to digitalize formerly analog operations to improve operational efficiency. The Port of Algeciras is one of the most forward-thinking ports known for its many innovation projects. In recent years, they have collaborated with around 40 start-ups and tech companies, one of them being a collaboration with PortXchange. We’ve interviewed Jesus Medina Blanco Chief Information and Innovation Officer at the Port of Algeciras and asked him a few questions about this collaboration and what benefits they’ve unleashed through the data-sharing platform.
PortXchange: What were some of the main shipping challenges you wanted to solve with the PortXchange Synchronizer platform
Jesus: The maritime industry is one of the oldest sectors and yet, in some cases, not very innovative. For us, it was clear, it was time for a radical change. To stay competitive, we need to think ahead. The key is in obtaining accurate real-time data and using it to optimize port operations. Digital solutions allow us to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped for unforeseen challenges.
Port call planning was, and still is, increasingly influenced by a variety of stakeholders’ activities, each pursuing specific strategic objectives. The main challenge was a dysfunction in the coordination of all the different operations. Without improving communication, optimizing operations seemed impossible.
When PortXchange reached out to us, we saw an opportunity to change our way of working. A data-sharing platform turned out to be the perfect solution for our needs. In fact, we had developed a pilot project with this concept previously.
Port of Algeciras
PortXchange: What are the key benefits for the Port of Algeciras?
Jesus: Synchronizer has many benefits but the most significant one is access to reliable real-time data. To take the first step in digitalization, we need accurate information from multiple stakeholders, only then we can optimize operations.
For years, the industry has always been interested in gathering data for various types of analysis. But, on the other hand, it was “never meant to be” shared between parties. People are terrified of their ships being tracked, and some argue that “transparency will destroy the industry.” But why not turn this “new” transparency into a competitive advantage that will benefit all the stakeholders? We continuously exchange information in our daily life. Why can’t the maritime industry start doing the same? We are lucky because the Port Community of Algeciras understands it that way.
At Algeciras, we provide new technologies that influence the way organizations work. We are collecting and analyzing data coming from the platform to improve our operations. We aim to create a more connected world to streamline collaboration inside the port and between ports.
If we can manage the operations and coordinate vessel movements between two ports better, the entire port community will benefit.
PortXchange: What are the key benefits for the Algeciras’s port community?
Jesus: Synchronizer enables us to share up-to-date and standardized information about the port call that is extremely beneficial to our stakeholders. Knowing when a vessel will arrive or when an operation will be completed allows everyone to plan better their activities and allocate resources in the most efficient way, avoiding wasting time or causing delays.
For instance, when a ship approaches a port, several operations must be coordinated to service a vessel in a timely manner. Each of these services is a complex puzzle by itself.
When the vessel completes cargo operations and is ready to sail, the pilot needs to know this information on time to board the vessel just in time (not before or after). If not, there is idle time and these delays will affect the service level agreement in the port community resulting in extra costs.
All activities at the port are linked, and any delay has a cascading impact. Currently, the greatest approach for reducing delays is using a data exchange platform.
All parties must be willing to coordinate their activities and share information. PortXchange helped us to collect useful data from shipping lines, terminals, and other parties in our port community. Thanks to the improved communication we were able to improve collaboration between the stakeholders involved in a port of call. As a result, we were able to reduce idle time, costs, and vessel delays.
PortXchange: What does the roadmap for improved digital collaboration look like in Algeciras?
The first step will be to continue receiving data, followed by better cooperation and coordination with stakeholders to understand the information and coordinate our operations. We will incorporate more data into the port management system to automatically update our information without manual intervention, achieving a higher level of visibility and operational planning in the port. In addition to that, we will continue making use of data analytics tools such as Power BI to exploit these data.
Following that, we would like to expand this data-sharing concept and involve other parties to create a more connected world. This won’t be an easy task, but we will do our best
As a final step in our roadmap, we aim to improve port-to-port connectivity by exchanging information with other ports that use Synchronizer. It is critical to know when a vessel has completed an operation in one port and is expected to arrive at Algeciras and vice versa. In that case, we proactively can adjust our planning, in case we see some delays or conflicts.
Port of Algeciras