Streamlining port calls: How a hub solution enhances efficiency and optimises performance
Mohammad Azim Qureshi, Global Hub Director
Port calls are by nature complex, while achieving cost-effective operations amid the ever-increasing number of vessels, diverse cargoes and increasing regulatory complexity is an ongoing challenge.
It is the responsibility of the appointed local port agents to interface with authorities and coordinate with third-party vendors. As the glue that bonds vessel, crew, customer and managers with local infrastructure, they are critical in creating front-line value.
"If customers have little knowledge of the realities on the ground and good data to guide them, it can be difficult to anticipate and expect challenges that may arise in port. Of course, the local agent do their utmost to provide good service, however wrong expectations of what will happen in port sometimes lead to friction." says Mohammad Azim Qureshi, Global Hub Director at Wilhelmsen Port Services.
Where local agents sometimes rely heavily on emails or there is no integration between their system and customer's systems, communication can be complicated, and it is difficult to get oversight. For customers, having to enter data into multiple systems manually can lead to errors in, for example, the Statement of Facts (SOF) and invoicing, where incomplete data and inconsistent formatting can result in delays and additional costs. Therefore, standardization of data is critical.
Furthermore, the port call value chain is at increased risk due to lack of knowledge on the evolving cyber security threats. There are today increasing vulnerabilities such as fraud attempts, interception of emails or data leaks. "We see rising risk in the maritime space, weaknesses are increasingly being exploited," says Qureshi.
Current solutions and the need for Hub concepts leveraging advanced digital tools
Given these risks, predictability is the core challenge for customers. Current solutions that focus on service delivery at lowest cost are no longer adequate. Customers need independent help not only to streamline transactions and manage costs, but also to reduce complexity, optimize time, increase visibility, improve responsiveness, and reduce risk. Integration of solutions leveraging performance metrics is key to improving planning and decision making.
HIVE sets new standard for efficiency, transparency and minimizing risk
"Transforming the customer/port interface requires a new level of creative leadership. Our HIVE hub solution is our answer, designed to foster collaboration along the value chain," says Qureshi.
HIVE inserts highly experienced Hub Agents into customers' port calls, helping them manage communications, integrations and also providing operational support where needed. "Based centrally in our hub offices in the U.S., Netherlands, Greece, Dubai and Singapore, they oversee thousands of port calls every day, working together with local port stakeholders to identify where improvements can be made," says Qureshi.
Hub agents manage performance together with local port agents on disbursements, as well as on the overall port call. Thereby helping to reduce friction in communication and ensuring that port operations are constantly improving.
"Our hub system leverages data to understand performance patterns, immediately catching performance issues and discussing these with agents. We are committed to being a partner for our customers as well as agents. This generates benefits for all parties. Our customers benefit from having full transparency over performance, while agents are always informed on performance according to expectations," says Qureshi.
"Hub actively works with local agents and customers to get port call data entered into HIVE, relying on a simple-to-use interface. The ability to share trustworthy data and dialogue with stakeholders using the HIVE Chat and Share feature provides a 'single source of truth' to minimize risk," he adds.
When customer systems are integrated into the HIVE platform, they can themselves evaluate and coordinate agents and suppliers, manage port calls, disbursement accounts (DAs) and cash transfers, as well as analyse operational performance.
Strengthening hub solutions with a 2-layer model
Unlike usual hub solutions, the HIVE model comprises two service layers. A team of experienced and well-trained disbursement specialists, using tools such as cost calculators based on port tariffs specifically focusing on DA accuracy and time bars. A second team which is closer to the operation, focuses on fostering relationships with local port agents and vendors. This team actively participates in the port call, assisting both the local agent and the customer on communication and operational expectations.
"We monitor the agent to ensure services are executed within KPIs to customers' satisfaction. We also ensure port call data is fed directly into customers' systems, avoiding double and manual entries. Plus, we can tailor all documentation to customer's requirements," says Qureshi.
Specific system functionalities include Port Call Management complete with interactive itineraries, KPI reporting and the use of the Port Cost Calculator. DA Management ensures rigorous control and approval of DAs according to customer’s approval pipeline. Cash Management tracks financial transactions in real time with a virtual float account and multi-currency management, while Performance Management provides analytics including interactive dashboards and port efficiency assessments.
Stay ahead of the curve with HIVE’s continuous and constant innovation
"We believe HIVE is a great solution for our customers because it brings us closer to reducing the size of the email monster and delivering more operational freedom. Backed by our strong data governance framework that ensures data quality and accuracy, we are fully committed to investing in new operational support features and data streams." says Qureshi. The ambition is for HIVE to handle all communication related to the port experience and overhaul transparency of the port call value chain.
With HIVE, our customers perform better, and agents appreciate our collaboration as we advise on improvement areas. It's a win-win all round leading to greater transparency and more efficiency across the industry," Qureshi concludes.