e-Maritime speakers highlight Port Community Systems’ Single Window role

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“Let’s not re-invent the wheel” was the key message to come out of the European Commission’s e-Maritime conference, where speaker after speaker emphasised the vital role that Port Community Systems must play in Europe’s move towards the ‘Single Window’ environment.

The EU Directive 2010/65 on ships’ reporting formalities, which sets a 2015 deadline for all EU member states to implement a Single Window for electronic reporting of data, was a major focus during the conference.

Among those speaking was Txaber Goiri, who presented the view of the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO). “ESPO urges national administrations to maintain and integrate existing Port Community Systems as entry points within the national Single Windows,” he said.

Mr Goiri, chairman of ESPO’s intermodal transport and logistics committee, described Port Community Systems as ‘local Single Windows’. As the true entry point to national Single Windows, they present a clear opportunity to meet the deadline set by Directive 2010/65, he added.

“We think Port Community Systems will build an active role in the initial phase of the Directive. Bearing in mind that the aim is trade simplification, we would urge minimal change, because the customers need stability in order to focus on their business.”

Dimitrios Theologitis, the EC’s head of unit, ports & inland navigation, was moderator for a working group on port cargo operations. Summing up the session, he highlighted the fact that Port Community Systems are mature and that they are in operation in 13 EU member states and being developed in seven others.

“Port Community Systems operate successfully in large and small ports. They are neutral and trusted third parties,” he said.

For the European Port Community Systems Association (EPCSA), the conference was a ‘milestone’, said EPCSA chairman Pascal Ollivier.

EPCSA has been lobbying and campaigning for the past two years to raise awareness of Port Community Systems and the vital role they play in the supply chain, while urging the EC to recognise the central role Port Community Systems can play in the move towards Single Window.

“There was a clear message from the conference that Port Community Systems will be the point of entry for national Single Windows,” said Mr Ollivier. “Speakers from across the industry said we need to build on existing systems that connect to the private and public sector – and that, of course, means Port Community Systems. This is a very important statement.”

EPCSA now needs to build on this recognition, and going forward the focus will be on increasing interaction between Port Community Systems in member states – “That will be our vision towards 2020,” he said.

At the conference, held in Brussels, EPCSA launched a Policy Statement on 2010/65, Single Window and e-Maritime, in which it calls for any changes in electronic reporting requirements and processes to be kept to a minimum, with the re-use of infrastructure that already exists.

“These are difficult times for shipping lines and they do not want to spend millions of Euros implementing yet another new IT system,” said Mr Ollivier. “For the next few years they want to focus on their business and their day-to-day operation. That is an important message from our stakeholders; shipping lines want a quiet and peaceful environment.”

Port Community Systems offer a user-driven port community solution and will enable member states to simplify the implementation of Directive 2010/65 by acting as a clearing centre for required information, says EPCSA.

The Policy Statement recommends: The EC should encourage the development of Port Community Systems as an efficient and effective way of simplifying port processes and a means by which the requirements of 2010/65 can be implemented; The EC should refocus e-Maritime as a trade facilitation policy and as a simplification of port processes to avoid confusion in the market; Member states should cooperate further to keep the impact of additional administrative burdens on the private sector to a minimum. B2B activities should remain outside the scope of the EC policy; and any policy should adhere to international message standards that are in common use across Europe.