Portbase celebrates 20th anniversary

November 21, 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of Portbase’s Port Community System (including its legal predecessors). Once established to digitize the paper and communication flows that support core port processes, it has become a critical asset in port logistics.

Portbase’s Port Community System now has the largest connected community of companies and governments in Europe and is considered one of the most modern and progressive Port Community Systems worldwide.

Paper away from the port

20 years ago, Portbase, together with the port community, started digitising the core processes and associated paper and communication flows in the Dutch ports. This is to increase efficiency in the port.

Portbase was founded by the port companies of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the Dutch government and the port business community, operates on a non-profit basis and has a neutral position in relation to its founders. Through Portbase, it became possible to provide automated data for various reports and declarations between companies and with governments. Because of the different types of reports and the increase in the amount of data and applications, re-use of data became part of the automated process soon after. The term paperless ports was born and organisations could work faster, smarter and more efficiently with the use of Portbase services.

CEO of Portbase Iwan der van Wolf: “To this day, Portbase ensures that all core processes in all Dutch ports are in order. The digitization of these core processes achieves almost 100 percent coverage and has an annual added value of over 400 million euros. Through Portbase, more than 5,000 companies conduct paperless business in the logistics chain, through all Dutch ports.”

Changing needs

Having created a solid foundation together with its community, Portbase has entered a new phase in which chain-wide solutions and more integrated services are possible.

CIO of Portbase Peter de Graaf: “The amount of data in the Port Community System is fuel for the further development of our services and new innovations, together with the community. We also see our platform being used more and more by third parties for (their own) customized solutions.”

In addition, Portbase sees that its community, from large to small, is increasingly recognising the importance of security. Portbase is also responding to this by offering Identity & Access solutions. Finally, the organisation is also being asked to do more and more in the area of sustainability.

De Graaf: “Because we have invested 20 years together in building a trusted digital environment, we can play a role in facilitating these developments. With this, we enrich the Port Community System’s services for the community.”

Co-operation beyond national borders

Portbase already has within its community many foreign parties working together because of the well-organized logistics chains, running through the Netherlands. This development is also possible because of the foundation laid 20 years ago.

Van der Wolf: “International players are looking for strong corridors in Europe where the physical, but certainly also the digital infrastructure is in order. They want to link to systems where local legislation is in place and existing networks have good geographical coverage for fast and efficient transport to and from the hinterland.”

Portbase, together with its community, has this in order. Its neutral position enables it to enter into this co-operation for the benefit of all.

Keeping things moving

The 20th anniversary, the broadening of services and the changed role require a critical look at one’s own identity. After all, the community views Portbase differently than it did 20 years ago. It expects Portbase to take the lead in the rapidly changing digitalization in logistics in order to stay ahead as a community. To respond well to this demand, Portbase started a repositioning process at the beginning of this year.

Van der Wolf: “The ‘be smart get connected’ proposition from 2016 has done its job well. Our community has grown and is still growing. But the needs of our customers, with all the disruptions and other logistics challenges in the chain, lie much more in keeping goods, logistics chains and trade moving. So a new pay-off was chosen: ‘Keeping things moving’. It emphasizes what we have been doing for 20 years.”

He continues: “It is the basis of our existence, a basis that we continuously strengthen together with our community. With new techniques, improved services and integral co-operation throughout the chain. Whether it’s keeping goods, data, chains, people or companies moving, we make sure it happens seamlessly, secure and sustainably.”

On the special website https://keepingthingsmoving.portbase.com/ there is much more to read about Portbase’s 20th anniversary, including a new corporate video and several videos in which clients talk about their experience with Portbase’s services.

ECT - Remote Check-In

Remote Check-In via Portbase available at ECT from 22 November

On Tuesday the 22nd of November, Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam (ECT) will make Remote Check-In (RCI) available for all road hauliers via the Portbase service Hinterland Container Notification Road (HCN Road). ECT has reported on this on their website and in their app. Read the news item from ECT here.

This means that, if properly prepared, drivers with an RCI number (the TAR number in HCN Road) can directly proceed to the gate without first needing to stop at the Do-it-Yourself Desk (DIYD) in building 5 at the ECT Delta Terminal. On average, your driver will save 10 – 15 minutes per visit. Furthermore, feedback related to the container statuses is provided faster, making long response times a thing of the past.

More secure process at the gate
The introduction of RCI makes the gate process more secure. The trip can only be performed by a driver with a cargo card from the organisation that has made the pre-notification or, in the case of a delegated carrier (executing charter), if this party has been designated as such in the pre-notification. The validation between pre-notification and cargo card is done on the basis of the EAN number; consequently, this number is becoming increasingly more important in the process. 

Are you pre-notifying in HCN? Check your EAN number
As the haulier performing the pre-notification, it is important that you ensure that Portbase knows your most recent EAN number at all times. If this is not the case, you cannot use Remote Check-In and your driver will still be referred to building 5. 

You can check your EAN number in Portbase (organisational management/account management). If the EAN number is no longer correct, you can fill in the amendment form. 

Heading out well prepared
This means; all pre-notifications in the relevant visit are “green” before your driver arrives at the terminal and you have specified any Remain-on-Truck containers via HCN. ECT requires that you use HCN to specify containers that remain on the truck during the visit to ECT (Remain-On-Truck containers) in advance.

Read here how RCI works. Frequently asked questions and answers about RCI are available in our Support environment. 

 API System interface
All the functionalities that are available in the HCN web screen (such as Executing Charter and Remain-on-Truck containers) can be automated with HCN via an API system interface (latest version). For Executing Charter: add EAN number of charter to voyageData. For Remain-on-Truck, there is an additional API endpoint /road:handling:create-nonpcs. Details are available at our Developer Portal. 

 Questions or assistance
For questions about the EAN number, please contact sales@portbase.com. For questions about RCI, please contact customerservice@portbase.com.

Portbase launches Secure Chain: now it’s up to the market

With the launch of Secure Chain, Portbase offers the opportunity to make port logistics more secure. The required solution is now available. It is now up to the market to actually start using it.

Secure Chain: what is it?

Secure Chain has three levels: bronze, silver and gold. Bronze means implementing IAMconnected. Specifically, it involves among others applying Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and periodically validating identities. Silver and gold are about designating the subsequent link(s) in the port logistics chain. Silver relates to the part of the chain between the shipper/forwarder and the carrier, gold to the entire port logistics chain (see also the note at the bottom of this message).

With silver, the shipper/forwarder can nominate the carrier to pick up the container at the terminal. With gold, it is the shipping company/shipbroker who, through the commercial release, designates the so-called ‘first release party’. This is done on the basis of a clearance/release. The next link in the chain, often the shipper, is then designated by means of an authorisation. This continues all the way down to the final link in the chain: the carrier. As with silver, the carrier is nominated to pick up the container at the terminal.

Secure Chain: what does Portbase do?

Portbase has already taken the first step regarding bronze: MFA has been mandatory for all Portbase services since 1 July of this year. Portbase is taking care of the technical realisation for both silver and gold. Silver is available via the Portbase services Cargo Controller and Hinterland Container Notification. So is gold, with the addition of the Portbase service Cargo Declaration Import. Silver is now live, gold is scheduled for 2023.

Secure Chain: are you in?

Now that the technical realisation of silver is complete, Portbase is ready to facilitate port logistics parties in its implementation and adoption. It is up to the market itself to actually start using silver. Portbase is not in a position to ‘enforce’ its use, as it was with MFA, for example.

Secure Chain: why now?

The momentum is there. The necessity of increasing security at the port is widely accepted. Gone are the days when security was primarily regarded as the responsibility of others. It is clear that this is everyone’s responsibility.

Moreover, Secure Chain means that logistics information becomes available earlier, through the Portbase services Cargo Declaration Import, Cargo Controller and Hinterland Container Notification. This increases the transparency of the port logistics chain and takes efficiency in port logistics to the next level.

Background to Secure Chain

The introduction of Secure Chain will create a closed chain, with access to the logistics chain process being obtained not with a PIN code as is currently the case but by means of a nomination, exemption or authorisation. This renders the PIN code unnecessary and the port logistics chain more secure. After all, with Secure Chain, only designated (known) parties can gain access to the port logistics process.

Clearly, gold intervenes more in the supply chain process than silver. For this reason, it has been decided to introduce silver in the port first and only then gold – silver can thus be seen as the stepping stone to gold. Incidentally, this order is separate from various pilots already underway in the port of Rotterdam to test gold in practice.

Secure Chain is part of the Securely Sharing Data Together programme. This programme has three tracks: secure identities, secure chains and a secure platform. Secure Chaimn is the concrete implementation of the second track (secure chains). Want to know more? Take a look at this page.

Monthly payments from 2023 and indexation

Monthly billing based on usage
As of January 2023, the billing method will change. From then on, Portbase will start billing monthly in arrears, based on actual usage. Portbase will send out monthly invoices based on transactions per month from 1 January 2023. The reason for the change is to provide transparency on usage and avoid unexpected additional charges.

Amendments to general terms and conditions
In view of the above change, a number of amendments have been made to article 9 (reimbursement) and article 10 (payment and billing) of the general terms and conditions. In these articles, the provisions on advance and final invoices have been changed to monthly billing based on actual usage. Click here for the amended articles.

Indexation in 2023
We would also like to inform you about the indexation of prices in 2023. Because of high inflation, Portbase is facing additional price increases. To cover these costs, Portbase will be indexing subscription rates* only by 8.1% (in accordance with the CPI) from January 2023. Portbase will be applying indexation in order to break even and indexing subscription rates will be sufficient to achieve that in 2023. Transaction rates will not be indexed.

We trust to have informed you sufficiently. If you have any questions, please contact Sales on +31 88 6252534 or your direct contact person.

Elk treinbezoek vooraf aanmelden

Mandatory slot requests for visits to rail terminals of ECT Delta, Euromax and RWG

From the 1st of November 2022, for all train visits to the ECT Delta terminal, the ECT Euromax terminal and RWG slot requests will be mandatory for rail operators. This can be done through the Portbase service Hinterland Container Notification (HCN).

The mandatory slot requests in the port of Rotterdam mark the completion of the first step of the ‘Rail Connected’ development programme. Rail operators request a terminal slot via the service HCN and the terminals accept or reject generated visits. As long as a visit has not been accepted by a terminal, the pre-notifications will not be processed by the terminal operating system.

Benefits

  • Centralised requesting of terminal slots through Hinterland Container Notification
  • Pre-created rotation templates allow for easy processing of rotations every week
  • Terminal capacity can be optimised
  • Traction suppliers can get up to date insights in container handlings at the terminals

Hans Nagtegaal, Director Containers at the Port of Rotterdam Authority:

“The pre-notification of trains via Hinterland Container Notification marks a wonderful step in digitising the exchange of data between chain parties. This step constitutes the first in a series of identified improvements that are being addressed within the Rail Connected programme. It is good to see that through collaboration in the sector, the rail product is further improving.”

Practical information
Through the web services of HCN, you can now use the rotation templates to create templates for your scheduled visits to the ECT Delta terminal, the ECT Euromax terminal and RWG.

Click here for more information about the rotation templates
Click here for the instructions and process agreements for the pre-notification of train visits

Have you not yet made any agreements with Portbase about getting started with the pre-notification of trains? Then please contact hinterland@portbase.com.

Groundbreaking digitisation!

In response to customers’ desire to be able to exchange more data at the front and back ends of logistics chains, Portbase is rolling out an international strategy. After all, logistics chains do not end at the Dutch border. With customer-focused moves in Germany, the start of cooperation with RheinPorts and various global initiatives, the strategy is currently taking concrete shape.

“Within our community, we see a growing need among companies for greater insight into their logistics chains”, observes Donald Baan, Manager of Business Development, Marketing & Sales. “Covid and other disruptions have significantly reinforced that process.” By means of an international strategy, Portbase therefore wants to help unlock data further down the logistics chains. This applies both on the sea side and towards the hinterland. The new approach was approved by the Supervisory Board and the Strategic Advisory Board in 2021. The rollout is now underway. Portbase did not have to start from scratch. Some 700 parties have been using the Port Community System (PCS) for some time now, most of them based in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. An initial form of cooperation also exists with the global data exchange platform TradeLens.

Customer needs at the heart of everything

The international strategy ranges from approaching potential new customers for Portbase services in the hinterland to exploring prospects for digitally connecting Northwestern Europe with the rest of the world. Manager Business Development, Charlotte Goos: “Our customers’ needs are at the heart of everything we do. Our thinking is based on the value to our community. But of course, data sharing always goes both ways. More insight here in the Dutch ports also means more insight for parties elsewhere.”

Into the hinterland, one region at a time

Portbase is tackling the digitisation of hinterland connections step by step. Goos: “We are first focusing concretely on the Duisburg region and on the waterways in the Rhine-Alps corridor. We have presented our services to German industry bodies and also surveyed their needs. This has generated a lot of positive feedback. The first new customers are now connected to the PCS.” Portbase wants to extend this approach, region by region, to the rest of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. “In doing so, we are explicitly looking at the entire chain. Besides shippers, for example, we are also including their inland terminals, carriers and other partners such as shipping companies and sea terminals. If the entire chain participates, connecting to the PCS becomes even more valuable.”

Partnership with RheinPorts

Another important step towards the hinterland is the cooperation agreement signed on 31 August with RheinPorts to expand the digital infrastructure along the Rhine-Alps corridor. RheinPorts is the joint multimodal information system of the Port of Duisburg, the Port of Mulhouse and the Swiss Rhine ports. In the future, the partnership should lead to a better digital connection with the port communities involved. Baan: “At Portbase and RheinPorts, we are combining our innovative capabilities to this end. By enabling more data exchange, the companies in the Dutch ports get a better picture of containers arriving from the hinterland, for example. Conversely, the same is true for parties in the hinterland with respect to containers heading in their direction. By 2023, we hope to be sharing data in an initial pilot with RheinPorts and companies in the community.”

Connecting to global platforms

On the sea side, Portbase wants to help increase transparency in logistics chains, for example through further cooperation with the global platforms of shipping companies such as TradeLens and GSBN. Goos: “At their request, we have been providing TradeLens participants with data on the release of their containers in the Dutch ports for some time now. Conversely, we can get data from TradeLens, for instance on when containers leave Asia. All kinds of data sharing along these lines are conceivable.” Goos envisions a future in which Portbase becomes a regional hub for global platforms in Northwestern Europe. “Everyone in our port community will then be able to connect to that very easily. We act as a kind of plug.”

Netherlands – Singapore

Also on the sea side, but at a different level, is the data sharing that Portbase is aiming to facilitate between customs authorities in the Netherlands and Singapore. Baan: “This is about exchanging data for even smoother handling of customs processes. These kinds of global pathways require a longer timeframe. Through pilots, we can demonstrate their value.”

Time must be ripe

In this way, Portbase is always proactively looking at where it can add value for the international port community. Sometimes, that may lead it to the conclusion that the time is not yet ripe. Goos: “For the shortsea sector, we saw potential added value in timely data sharing on the loading and discharge of shortsea containers with parties in other European ports. In practice, there is currently insufficient interest in this within the community.”

“With our existing broad community and services that extend deep into the logistics process, we are well positioned to play a bigger role internationally as well”, Baan concludes. “Based on our neutral, facilitating and overarching role, we are keen to ensure that we involve our community in all the steps that need to be taken. Data owners always remain in control and data sharing takes place only with their consent, in a completely secure environment.”

Cargo leaving the EU? New customs rules on the way!

Dutch Customs is moving to a new system for registering goods leaving the EU in response to European regulations. As an EU member state, the Netherlands must meet Automated Export System (AES) requirements by the end of November 2023. Coordination between Customs and business on implementation has begun.

AES is a nationwide innovation that will impact on all market participants involved in outbound cargo flows, including those outside the maritime sector. In the Dutch ports, it will mean a different way of working not only for stevedores and shipbrokers, but also for forwarders and carriers. Portbase is making complying with the new customs regulations as easy as possible for the community.

More control over outgoing goods

The implementation of AES follows on from the introduction of the Union Customs Code (UCC) in 2016, explains Michel Zijderveld, Implementation Manager AES Exit for Dutch Customs. Further digitisation of customs processes is an important element of that. “AES is the successor to ECS and involves tightening up in various areas. From a security perspective, we at Customs want more control over goods going out of the EU. A topical example is being able to enforce sanctions properly.”

Export, re-export and exit

The Implementation Manager explains the difference between “export” (being the export declaration), “re-export” (being the declaration to re-export) and “exit” (verification that goods are actually leaving the EU). AES relates to all of these processes.

Exit of cargo involves three AES notifications for port operators: the arrival-at-exit notification when cargo arrives at the terminal from the hinterland, the notification of transhipment cargo that will be remaining in an RTO (temporary storage facility) at a terminal for more than 14 days, and the notification of transhipment cargo that will be remaining in an RTO at a terminal for less than 14 days. All three are pre-existing notifications that will work slightly differently under AES.

The latter notification, the re-export notification, represents the biggest change for shipbrokers. Currently, this notification is made by making a reference to the consignment (B/L) in the outgoing manifest, as detailed in the declaration for temporary storage on entry. This form of re-export notification will no longer be available after the end of the transition period (presumably 30 September 2023). From then on, the re-export notification, like the other two notifications, must be submitted in the form of an electronic message.

Portbase to adapt PCS

With its Port Community System (PCS), Portbase has for years been providing a chain solution that not only enables the sharing of information and statuses but also informs parties in advance whether the formalities required for a shipment have been completed. Notifications are also automatically sent to Customs. This working method results in fewer operations and clarity on whether a shipment has been accepted at a terminal, for example, and/or whether a shipment may be loaded by the shipping company.

In line with the above, Portbase will also be providing the community with a solution for AES via the PCS. For now, the PCS provides AES-related services only for transhipment cargo that is in port for more than 14 days (EXS). One of the changes will relate to the arrival-at-exit notification. Portbase also wants to develop a new service to allow shipbrokers to report transhipment cargo that remains at a terminal either longer or shorter than 14 days. To this end, Portbase, working closely with the parties involved, is examining how the extra work related to transhipment can be organised as efficiently as possible in the PCS.

Thanks to Portbase and its PCS, the port business community will soon be able to meet the new AES obligations very easily with the help of the new services described above.

New customs system for better supervision

Customs will process future AES notifications via a new system that will allow for better and more supervision. The system is called BUP (Entry, Exit, Provisioning – in Dutch: Binnenbrengen, Uitgaan, Provianderen) and communicates with another new Customs system – the Customs Management System (CMS) – for making export and re-export declarations. BUP is still under development and CMS implementation is currently underway.

Implementation Manager Zijderveld notes that the main focus of businesses is currently on connecting to the CMS. However, AES will inevitably follow. “In June, we at Customs therefore set up a sounding board group including representatives from umbrella organisations, software suppliers and, of course, Portbase.”

Following these exploratory talks on the coming changes, a number of webinars will be held, in order to focus more attention on the introduction of AES outside the sound board group.

30 November 2023 is the deadline set by Brussels for AES implementation to be complete. “Anyone who is not ready to transition to AES by then will no longer be able to submit notifications and will therefore have a problem. We therefore urge parties to think about the impact and start preparing in time.”

Towards a single port-wide truth 

For each of the millions of containers that arrive at the Port of Rotterdam from outside the European Union every year, and also of the containers departing again, each terminal keeps its own so-called RTO records, which Customs checks retrospectively. All the parties involved agree that this way of working could be made smarter and more efficient, not least to benefit the exchange of containers between terminals. Through the development of a comprehensive Container Tracking System, Portbase is therefore taking the lead in establishing a single central port administration.  

The Netherlands is consistently ranked among the top regions in the World Bank’s biennial Logistics Performance Index. One of our country’s important USPs is its progressive customs approach, in which modern supervision goes hand in hand with trade facilitation. At the same time, many port participants are aware that there are still gains to be made in the customs administration surrounding the entry of goods. A port-wide approach would bring many benefits for everyone, with containers moving even faster through the port, reducing the administrative burden and improving supervision.

Everyone keeps their own records

In the current way of working, each individual terminal keeps its own so-called RTO (temporary storage facility) records for Customs. This allows a terminal to administer all statuses for incoming containers from overseas, from arriving at the terminal to departure. For Customs, it is the basis for checking that goods do not enter free circulation unauthorised. Every month, Customs compares each RTO administration with its own data from shipping companies’ declarations. In the event of deviations or if the maximum permissible stay of 90 days has been exceeded, Customs can take action.

Strict procedures for exchanging containers

The strict RTO rules necessary for customs supervision also have implications for the regular exchange of containers between terminals. For example, a container arriving on a deep-sea vessel at terminal 1 may need to depart again by feeder vessel from terminal 2. In the current RTO regime, this requires many additional administrative actions on the part of both the shipping company and the terminal, because a container is leaving one RTO system and entering a new one. Customs wants assurance that customs procedures are being followed properly and that cargo cannot suddenly disappear in between the two points.

Feasibility study

Under the leadership of the port entrepreneurs’ association Deltalinqs and with partial funding from Top Sector Logistics, around two years ago a study was carried out to see whether and how the current process could be improved. The joint conclusion of terminals, shipping companies, forwarders, carriers, Customs and Portbase was that a central Customs Goods Tracking System is legally feasible and would provide great added value for all parties.

Portbase takes on development

Under the new name ‘Container Tracking System’, this year Portbase took up the challenge of creating a single central, all-encompassing port administration. After all, much of the necessary data is already present in the Port Community System – all the parties involved are connected. Delivery is nevertheless a complex task that will require a long-term and phased approach. The first step is the development of a single port-wide RTO system, replacing the current separate RTO administrations for each terminal, whereby each RTO holder (terminal) does remain responsible for its own administration. By building a transfer module, the transportation of containers between participating RTOs can then also be simplified. Finally, a ‘customs dashboard’ will enable real-time monitoring for Customs instead of, as now, monthly retrospective checking of separate RTO records. Providing the foundations for all this, Portbase is delivering a basic administration system containing all the necessary data.

Major benefits

For Portbase, the benefits of a single central Container Tracking System are obvious: faster transport will strengthen the port’s competitive position and improve trade compliance. It will enable uniform, port-wide arrangements with Customs, and verification of port-wide RTO records can take place in real time rather than after the fact. The implementation of a centralised Container Tracking System will also ensure optimum reuse of data, require less maintenance (because maintenance will be carried out centrally) and result in lower costs.

Concrete steps towards a port-wide RTO

Step one has now been taken. The development of a port-wide RTO system with an underlying basic administration system has begun. One of the container terminals has indicated its willingness to act as a launching customer, giving the project a flying start. All the deepsea terminals are involved through a port-wide working group. This means that everyone’s wishes are being taken into account right from the start. This will allow terminals to seamlessly connect to the port-wide RTO system when they are ready to do so. Portbase’s target is to start testing the new RTO system in practice with the first terminal in autumn 2023.

Datafuel

‘A really good way of working together’ 

Under the Data Fuel programme, Portbase is working with the port community on improvements designed to contribute to smarter and therefore more efficient hinterland transport. On behalf of Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TLN), Jeroen de Rijcke, submarket secretary of the Alliance of Sea Container Carriers (Alliantie Zeecontainervervoerders – AZV), was involved in this ambitious initiative. He sheds light on what has already been achieved and what is still needed to continue making strides when it comes to optimising logistics chains through the use of data in the Dutch ports.

Volumes in Dutch ports have increased substantially in recent years. Moreover, significantly larger oceangoing vessels are creating huge peak loads at the terminals. As a result, the most sought-after time slots fill up quickly and congestion in the ports is the order of the day.

Five areas of focus

With the ambitious Data Fuel programme, Portbase is working with the port community to resolve this undesirable situation in the Dutch ports. There are five key areas of focus:

  • Improvement, by increasing the ease of use of Portbase services
  • Broadening, by connecting as many (inland) terminals and empty depots as possible to Portbase’s Port Community System (PCS)
  • Deepening, by making more information available
  • Modernisation, by coming up with innovative solutions
  • Confidence, by making logistics chains safer

The implementation of the (new) functionalities required will take place in phases, in consultation with representatives from the port business community and industry bodies.

We need each other

De Rijcke is one of these representatives on behalf of TLN. He says: “Portbase asked us several years ago to come up with a vision for more efficient hinterland transport. We were happy to do that, of course, but it did represent a challenge for us. After all, you are talking about sketching out the future for a large number of container transport companies. That’s a pretty big responsibility.”
By regularly exchanging ideas with his submarket board, discussing the development of the vision at AZV member meetings and talking to a number of TLN-affiliated container transport companies, a good outline emerged of what the vision needed to include.

That meant looking beyond self-interest, De Rijcke stresses. “We also looked at inland shipping and rail, modes that are becoming increasingly important for road hauliers. And we exchanged ideas with other stakeholders in the port, such as the port authority. Because naturally, the AZV has the interests of container transport companies at heart. At the same time, it is clear that we cannot do it alone and desperately need each other to achieve the larger common goal: getting as many goods as possible into the Netherlands and handling them as efficiently as possible in our ports and hinterland.”

Well-defined roadmap

With the vision document in hand, the AZV then went back to Portbase. It laid an important foundation for content and prioritisation within the Data Fuel programme. “It was a really good way of working together”, says De Rijcke looking back. “Portbase handed us the initiative, we came back to them with our vision document which they then used to inform their actions going forwards. The result was a well-defined roadmap, with clear priorities, so that we know exactly which improvements we can expect and when.”

Immediate benefits

A concrete and topical example of one of those improvements is the link between the PCS and inland terminals/empty depots in the hinterland. De Rijcke: “We have been talking to each other about this for quite a long time; it was on the agenda as early as 2019. And now it’s happening, becoming concrete within the Data Fuel programme, based in part on our vision document.”

Over the past two months, five inland terminals/empty depots have been connected to the PCS. This has greatly increased the coverage ratio of the Portbase service Notification Container Hinterland and has done much to establish a standard operating process, which now also extends to the hinterland. De Rijcke: “That’s where we wanted to get to and now we have. Which is great, because there are immediate benefits. It makes the logistics chain even more transparent and helps make our planning even more efficient. And incidentally, it is not just the container transport companies but also the inland terminals and empty depots in question that benefit from being connected. They will experience less congestion at their facilities, for example, and be able to utilise their capacity much better.”

Central place for transparency

What has not yet been delivered, but what De Rijcke is particularly keen to draw attention to, is Port Alert – that is, the first step towards the development of an overall time slot system for the port of Rotterdam. He explains: “More and more terminals and depots are thinking about time slots in order to make the best use of their available capacity and regulate traffic flows on their premises. It also offers advantages for hinterland carriers because when you book a time slot, you know exactly what you can expect.” But unfortunately there are also drawbacks to time slots, De Rijcke points out. “Especially with short time slots, planners tend to book more slots than strictly necessary. They do that purely as a precaution, out of the fear of not being able to get to a terminal or depot on time. This behaviour tends to result in a large number of no-shows, which in turn reduces the available capacity at a terminal or depot. That means schedules have to be continually adjusted and creates waiting times at terminals and depots.”

To prevent this from affecting the number of trips container carriers are able to make per day, and to prevent the port of Rotterdam from potentially losing market share in the long run, an umbrella time slot system would provide a solution, De Rijcke said. “Because that way you create transparency regarding capacity, occupancy and (expected) handling at terminals and depots in the port of Rotterdam in a single, central place. And based on that transparency, planners will be able to make smarter choices.”

The further development of Port Alert is planned from the last quarter of this year.

Strict overseeing role

De Rijcke concludes: “Let’s be clear: at the AZV, we fully support the direction of travel established with Data Fuel. But at the same time, it is clear that the rollout of this programme must not be allowed to negatively impact our day-to-day operations, even temporarily. It is therefore important to manage the implementation optimally and to properly involve all stakeholders at an early stage in the improvements that will be made as part of Data Fuel and everything that will be required to that end. As far as I am concerned, in view of its central, neutral and facilitating position in the port, Portbase should play a very strict overseeing role, obviously coordinating its actions with all those involved, to ensure that this important condition in the implementation process is assured.”

Conversely, says De Rijcke, the chain parties themselves also have a clear responsibility. “Everything hinges on the willingness to share good and relevant data with each other.” De Rijcke therefore hopes that as many parties as possible will sign up for Data Fuel. “After all, efficient container transportation depends on multiple parties. Only together can we achieve optimum results.”