Port Strategy: Port Standardisation: Cleared for Take-off

Press Review

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INFORM’s Matthew Wittemeier explains why ports can learn from mistakes made in the airport industry on setting data standards.

COMMENT: I was in Hamburg in May at the INTTRA Tech Summit and I heard something that was music to my ears. A managing director of a large shipping company commented that implementing new IT systems isn’t the problem we face as an industry, sharing data is. In June, the discussions at TOC Europe largely revolved around the idea of standardisation in the industry. With this in mind, I got to thinking about whether there is a blueprint for standardisation that the maritime industry could adopt. The answer is yes.

Most would agree that the terminal industry exists in a closed, silo driven data structure where data is hoarded. Vendor-to-vendor cooperation is scarce at best, and at worst, avoided and limited. In a world where every individual company and organisation is out for themselves, this makes competitive sense. But the port industry must ask itself: what is it going to take to move beyond this ‘competitive first’ strategy, allowing us as an industry to see the significant advantages that co-operation can provide?

It is worth noting that the Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA) is making positive steps towards developing standards. Through initiatives like its TOS-ECS Interface Standard, first published in 2014, and its new Terminal Industry Committee 4.0 (TIC 4.0), announced in June 2018, it is in fact making inroads towards standardisation. That said, if we’re interested in not repeating the errors of others, then it is worth reviewing a peripheral industry — aviation — which has already gone through the struggle of answering the question of standardisation and come out on the other side — for better or worse.

Ports can learn from mistakes in the airport industry on setting data stanards. Credit: Michaelgaida, Pixabay, CCo

Flight lessons

Airports have grappled with this very question, and the concept of collaboration, for decades, and in doing so have made significant progress towards a realistic and now tried and tested solution. The journey hasbeen long, and to reach the point of sharing data as an industry there were many stopovers along the way at smaller problems that required solutions before they were able to reach their final destination.

The first major challenge to sharing data is an industry-wide acceptance that data is important and that using it wisely would benefit everyone. When it comes to data, the aviation sector benefits from its broad regulations. Through regulation, it has been forced from an early point to collect and store data. The rise of computing and more cost-effective hardware systems gave birth to the Airport Operational Database (AOBD) in the 1990s. AODB would prove to be one of the precursors to big data. These systems were responsible for collecting data from disparate IT subsystems, storing it centrally, and feeding this data out to systems that required it to make decisions.

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