PAULA’s Spanish port-call promise

This past June saw the formation of SEAPort Solutions, a Spanish joint-venture that could well play a major part in speeding up port calls around the world.

Increasing competition and globalisation, not to mention commercial uncertainty and the ever-present need to achieve economies of scale, are just some of the issues putting pressure on the contemporary maritime sector. Thus, in this context, it is crucial that ports enhance the efficiency of ship calls if they are to maintain profitability, says Gabriel Ferrús Clari, CEO of Ship Efficient Approach at Port (SEAPort) Solutions, a recently formed joint-venture between Fundación Valenciaport, Infoport Valencia and Híades Consulting.

And when it comes to the typical port call process, there would certainly appear to be plenty of scope for improvement. Indeed, citing the findings of the EU’s recent Sea Traffic Management (STM) Validation project in which Fundación Valenciaport played a key part, Clari notes that just 40% to 65% of a ship’s time in port is actually spent loading and/or unloading cargo. And while some of that non-productive time is spent performing essential tasks, such as bunkering, a significant swathe is nonetheless spent idling.

“These percentages confirm the potential margin for improvement of these processes. Of course, it is not possible to expend 100% of your time at port loading and unloading but these numbers could be higher with the right information exchange and accurate estimations,” he says.

This, of course, is easier said than done given the number of stakeholders involved in a single port call, which Clari describes as “a complex equation with lots of variables and parameters” that need to be considered. Moreover, the information required is often not harmonised with information redundancy also a frequent problem. The upshot is “a low degree of predictability” that results in reduced efficiency and ergo port profitability.

To address this, SEAPort Solutions has developed Platform for AUtomatically LinKing Agents (PAULA). Using the S-211 international standard included in the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) registry, this software has been designed to facilitate the real-time and automatic exchange of pertinent information between all port call participants, ranging from pilots and tugboats to mooring companies and terminal operators. In so doing, it expected to greatly help achieve improved planning and scheduling; avoid delays and confusion; and reduce ship turnaround times.

“The system aims to improve the efficiency of port call processes through shared digital information system integration and the creation of a framework for collaboration among all the agents involved in these calls,” Clari states, revealing that the company is currently working on a flexible version of the software, the minimum viable product (MVP).

Meanwhile, a key aspect of PAULA is its capacity for customisation that enables it to account for the specific characteristics of individual ports, with all roles and permissions agreed with the stakeholders prior to deployment. In order to achieve this, the company will also offer business consulting services focused on analysing the particular needs and intricacies of each port, looking at the port call procedures employed and the systems used for the exchange of information.

Although still nascent in nature, the company is keen to take its solutions and services to all corners of the globe while simultaneously enhancing its offering to meet the needs of industry. “We have received some positive feedback and expressions of interest, but, as a recently-formed company, we are in the early stages of commercial activities and [are] looking for market opportunities. We will work hard on showing the benefit of our solution for optimising and improving the efficiency of [port call] processes,” he says.

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