rade is the engine of economic growth for any country. Therefore countries around the world strive to improve cross border efficiencies in enabling greater predictability, transparency and other similar attributes to facilitate international trade. 

Port Community Systems

Port automation and Port Community Systems (PCS) play an important role in improving efficiency and ease of doing business.

A PCS would enable the electronic exchange of information between ports, logistics sector and other stakeholders such as Customs. It is an electronic platform which connects the multiple systems operated by these organisations that make up a seaport, airport or an inland port community.

A properly built PCS has the ability to seamlessly integrate into a National Single Window (NSW) thus assisting to significantly reduce costs and duplication of effort through efficient electronic exchange of information

Although PCS have evolved more slowly than comparable sectors, the pace is now starting to accelerate.

Port Community Systems such as the ‘Portnet’ of Singapore links the entire port community which enables a faster and more efficient operation with such services as transshipment and local container instructions and management, container services, information services, electronic shipping note, and electronic Delivery Order to name a few.

The system optimises, manages and automates smooth port and logistics processes through a single submission of data and by connecting transport and logistics chains.

Currently, port terminals in Sri Lanka is involved in electronic exchange of information with stakeholders and have reached various maturity levels. However, a properly planned PCS could overcome the limitations and bring in standardisation whilst improving efficiencies of key processes end-to-end. 

National Single Window

A National Single Window (NSW) is a facility that allows all parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents with a single-entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit related regulatory requirements. 

During the last 18 months or so, noteworthy efforts were made towards a Sri Lankan NSW (SLNSW) with four stakeholder forums and multiple discussions aimed at finalisation of a blue print for a SLNSW.

These included clarifying the functional scope of a SLNSW, governance aspects (policy, implementation, monitoring, steering committee, etc.) define and decide on the SLNSW operator model and revenue model, and deployment strategy.

CASA was actively involved in these stakeholder forums and it was understood that the finalised blue print would be presented to the Government/National Trade Facilitation Secretariat.

However, there has not been any communication to the stakeholders on this for the last four months or so and it will be important to continue the good work done on this in view of trade facilitation and ease of doing business.

How can we benefit?

Singapore in particular has been a pioneer in implementing a robust trading system which was implemented in 1989. The implementation of the trading system was prompted by a review of Singapore’s economy after having experienced a recession in the 1980s. Having implemented the single window, Singapore witnessed marked efficiencies in the time taken for document processing, which reduced to 15 minutes from four days which was a previous norm.

Thailand too has also taken steps, including procedural reforms and customs modernisation, towards implementing a single window. This has not only eliminated redundant processes but has also significantly reduced the number of days for exporting goods from 24-day in 2006 to 14 days in 2009. 

In China, having implemented an automated information transaction system is estimated to have saved $ 167 million in efficiency improvements. In Korea, the total savings to the business community from the use of their single window is estimated to be between $1 billion and $ 818 million. 

Way forward

It is often appealing to contemplate an all-at-once type implementation, referred to as a ‘big bang’, where there is a fast and deep change within a short period of time. This is politically appealing because of quick delivery of results. However, in the majority of circumstances, it is impractical to implement comprehensive ICT-based projects in such a radical manner. This is mainly due to practical limitations on the capacity to manage a broad change.

The alternative is a more phased implementation, where change is gradually introduced over a longer time frame, starting on a small or limited scale. A gradual implementation with key functionalities offers the advantage of overcoming resistance to change from stakeholders, whilst reducing the cost of change. As such, a NSW project usually starts with a selected number of stakeholders, key functions, and geographical coverage, and is later scaled up.

Moreover, to sustain the implementation process over time and move things forward, it is advisable to establish a strong lead agency to ensure collaboration between government and the trade community. CASA, the voice of the shipping industry would like to stress the importance of the National Single Window and a Port Community System and urge the authorities to take necessary steps urgently before it is too late.


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