We do what the market demands of us!

“Of, for and by the community.” Portbase (and its predecessor Port infolink) has been living up to this motto since 2002. The Port Community System (PCS) very much belongs to the port community. Support for its use is therefore essential, emphasises Marty van Pelt, Manager of Business Relations. To this end, Portbase consults closely with customers on the course to be taken and its concrete implementation. One way it does so is through customer panels. On 7 June, the customer panels met at TLN in Zoetermeer for their half-yearly meetings.

“With about 5,000 customers who differ enormously from one another, you can imagine that ‘everyone’ wants something different from Portbase. We receive a constant stream of ideas and requirements,” explains Van Pelt. “Our customer panels are therefore very important. They really offer customer representation towards Portbase. This is how customers are able to exert influence. We always ask the customer panels to identify the important issues, bottlenecks and, above all, the priorities for one to three years into the future.” Portbase, in turn, provides feedback to the customer panels on the activities it has carried out and those that are in the pipeline. It also asks customer panels to confirm the plans agreed in the consultation process and then to share those outcomes with the firms they represent.

The customer panels really offer customer
representation towards Portbase

Customer panels represent their sector

There is a separate customer panel for each part of the logistics chain: Shipping Companies, Agents & Shipbrokers, Terminals & Depots, Hinterland and Shippers & Forwarders. They meet twice a year. Participants are drawn from industry bodies and the business community. (You can view the current composition of the panels here.)  Van Pelt: “Customer panellists are experts in their field and act as representatives of their sector.”

Setting informed priorities

Portbase always tries to provide the customer panels with the best possible information. Prior to the meeting on 7 June, for example, extensive research was conducted among a large portion of the customer base. Van Pelt: “We wanted to know what our customers believe requires more attention. What do companies feel is lacking in our services? Having the right conversations in the customer panels and setting informed priorities provides us with important feedback.”

It is up to the customer panels to define
the right priorities for Portbase

More than talking shops

The customer panels are more than simply talking shops, Van Pelt emphasises. Together with the Supervisory Board and the Strategic Advisory Board, they have been part of Portbase’s governance structure since 2018. Their history goes back to 2009. Back then, an Agreement of the Future between the Port of Rotterdam Authority, the business community and Portbase set out commitments for the successful further development of the PCS. Among other things, it was decided that Portbase should be neutral, should break even and should always work for the greater good of the port. The business community, in turn, has made a commitment to the PCS. “Another important ground rule that was agreed is that the port business community must be closely involved in Portbase’s business, product and marketing strategy. The customer panels put that rule into practice. In this way, we are listening to the market.”

Professional approach

The first of the two rounds of customer panels for 2022 were held on 7 June at Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TLN) in Zoetermeer. Following a kick-off by TLN CEO Jan Boeve and Portbase CEO Iwan van der Wolf, the four customer panels each convened separately to tackle the themes that are important to their sector. Van Pelt: “We prepare for these meetings thoroughly and we take a professional approach. It is up to the customer panels to define the right priorities for Portbase. In this case for 2023. Within our capabilities, next year we will again do what the market demands of us!”

In our customer panel, we always engage in
open and constructive discussions

The example of VRC

Van Pelt describes the involvement of the business community in Portbase as absolutely essential. He cites the involvement of the Association of Rotterdam Shipbrokers and Agents (VRC) as a good example of how the business community and Portbase complement one another. “VRC CEO Marco Tak keeps a close eye on things. We hold each other to account on the commitments we make and so help each other deliver them.” Tak agrees. “At VRC, we are positively disposed towards Portbase and we share ideas in a constructive way. In our customer panel – Shipping Companies, Agents & Shipbrokers – we always engage in open and constructive discussions. Thanks to our input and wishes, Portbase is able to continually improve existing systems and develop new services that match the needs of our members. As a result, we have managed to cooperate successfully on things like the approach to Brexit, the introduction of the Container Release Notice, the ongoing Vessel Notification improvements and right now the creation of chains of trust. Together, we stand strong!”