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Three Is Not A Crowd

Sunday, 02 September 2018 | 20:00

The maritime business, long a laggard in adapting to technological advancements, has been increasingly in the crosshairs of information advances, writes Barry Parker.

Now, vessels – once “out of sight and out of mind” – are linked into all types of operational and commercial networks.

Previously, I’ve mentioned the importance of interfaces with ports, and a new report that has come out of European Union’s Sea Traffic Management (STM) project could provide the grist for actionable suggestions on synchronising activities during port calls that ought to be considered by ports in the Americas, as well.

Cutting through the overly academic style, the authors suggest that: “The introduction of three-party contracts, as an alternative or a complement to traditional charterparties (which might need to co-exist alongside charterparties and be back-to-back with them), would mean that actors would largely need to adopt a slot management system to ensure that scheduling obligations can be met with confidence.”

Ship owners and cargo interests are the traditional participants in charter contracts; in the STM vision, port operators would comprise the third wheel. Though this sounds aspirational and even fanciful, I discovered, deep in the footnotes of the paper, that executives from APM Terminals – whose worldwide footprint touches active participation in the Americas – offered guidance to the STM writers.

The authors are sensitive to ports’ varied organisation charts, spanning landlord ports at one extreme to actual terminal operators at the other. They note: “From the port’s point of view, it is necessary to distinguish a relevant party. It could typically be the port authority or the terminal operator depending on how the port is organised.”

The benefits of tri-party arrangements, though clearly complicated to implement in practice – with a myriad of bespoke adaptations – are numerous and encompass all-important safety and environmental sustainability goals. But more importantly, ports that can bring business efficiencies to vessel calls will stand out in increasingly crowded fields.

As I’ve noted previously, supply chains and patterns of vessel calls are more dynamic than ever before, so methodologies that can bring competitive advantages need to be seriously considered.
Source: Port Strategy

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