Having redeveloped its World of Ports portal from the ground up over the last 18 months, Inchcape Shipping Services has rolled out the first release of Version 2.0 focusing on Port Data and ship-to-berth compatibility. VP of Sales & Product Development Jeff Clark says this and an abundance of new features in upcoming releases will provide customers with an unmatched level of market intelligence and transparency.
World of Ports was launched in 2007 and has been available online since 2010. “The service was born out of an initial request from a customer for a dataset their chartering team could work with to make their cargo operations more efficient,” says Jeff Clark, VP of Sales & Product Development. “From there we launched a solution that now serves as a single source of trusted data for all our customers spanning oil and gas majors, shipping companies and ship managers globally.”
The key differentiator versus other port intelligence providers is that the data is collected directly from Inchcape’s worldwide agency network and is verified by a centralised team of data analysts with seafaring backgrounds. The team is managed by a Master Mariner while all have first-hand knowledge of both risks and practical issues. “The value isn’t just in what we publish, but in leveraging that information. Speaking the same language as our clients and partners builds trust and allows for targeted inquiries and quick replies. Simply put, we’re on the same page.”
World of Ports 2.0 covers 4,600 ports, 16,000 terminals and 36,000 individual berths around the world. The revamp is backed by a new expanded vision to be the best available decision-making tool in the marine assurance space harnessing reliable global knowledge in near real time. “The strength and variety of data we gather day in and day out allowed us to define an ambitious roadmap for the service. In addition to the improved user interface, we’ve split it into four modules with loads of new features that can really help to enhance customers’ competitive advantage,” says Clark.
The Port Data module just released will be followed over the next 12 months by a Port Cost Estimator module and Port Performance module, as well as Market Intelligence. “Together they will help the marine assurance and operations community to plan and benchmark voyages in ways that were unthinkable just a few years ago,” says Clark.
The Port Data module enables charterers to perform automated due diligence on their operations by combining comprehensive data on port parameters and restrictions with vessel data to identify optimal ship-to-berth compatibility. “Anything that makes cargo operations more predictable is a winner,” says Clark. “We’re going from a single source of trusted data to a single source of truth for ports, terminals and berths globally.”
Key new features include a one-stop search function using new advanced search filters. “You can search using a vessel’s IMO number, its name or by generic vessel size and type. Then you can select the region, country or port you want to look at and retrieve only the compatible locations that apply to a specific vessel or fleet,” he adds.
Freeing up precious time
The functionality is based on a combination of WoP’s proprietary port dataset with AIS data and a third-party vessel database. The overall advantage is saving time, allowing chartering teams to use more of their time on unlocking business advantage. Clark says this is especially useful for smaller companies with manual systems and limited resources. “Having this kind of online service means they no longer have to collect and update information themselves and is a huge step in terms of timesaving.”
Vessel tracking has been integrated to enable monitoring of arrivals and departures in port of 50,000 vessels worldwide, but it goes a major step further by geocoding and geofencing all ports, terminals and berths. “Geofencing basically reduces the ambiguity (or duplication) of all locations, so we can track port calls as well as vessel line-up and congestion within port,” says Clark.
“Gold” record of port calls
Inchcape’s proprietary algorithms also allow customers to see if a vessel is laden or in ballast, predicts the vessel’s cargo type and estimates the quantity of cargo on board. “Geofencing within our application and the port database detailing estimated cargo loaded or discharged at each berth creates a ‘gold’ record for each port call in near real time,” says Clark. “That gives our customers much greater transparency for every port call.”
Shipping companies want to know what vessels and cargo are doing and what this does is allow them to track their specific commodity flow(s). The upcoming Market Intelligence module will build on that to provide insight on commodity flow at the global level, among other new features. “But we don’t want to jump the gun by detailing them all just yet,” says Clark.
Port Data customisation includes the ability to set up alerts for arrivals and departures at berth and congestion alerts showing if ships are at or waiting for a berth. Time stamps are another feature, not only for arrival and departures, but on all data in the system. “Companies can then use the status of data in reporting or verification to the authorities,” says Clark. Customers can also set up their own geofencing alerts for piracy zones and Emission Control Areas. “This enhances transparency and helps to mitigate risk,” says Clark.
Vessel surveillance is not new per se. “Version 2.0 mirrors the huge drive towards digital data sharing, and it’s all done using open-source data that is accessible to everyone,” Clark says. “We’re not the first to do it, but how we’re layering the data and making it work to provide competitive insight is new, and unique.”
Predictability in uncertain times
With ever-stricter emissions requirements, fuel prices on a roller coaster and markets shifting in tandem with geopolitical agendas, it seems the “new normal” for shipping is constant change. “Unexpected events and disruptions to trade patterns are outside our sphere of control, but what we can do is enhance predictability at the port level,” says Clark. World of Ports 2.0 already provides detailed and frequently updated information on mandatory port and terminal documentation and environmental regulations, so customers are fully informed as to compliance requirements for each call.
“Data on turnaround times based on vessel type and commodity, and port congestion in near real time will feature in the Port Performance module coming up, and there will also be an optimisation tool that will help ships adjust their sailing speed to save fuel,” says Clark.
Meanwhile, the global coronavirus pandemic has thrown up some novel challenges for shipping and ports. How is World of Ports helping stakeholders cope? “Information is the key,” says Clark. “We didn’t activate the news alert functionality in the first Port Data release, but it will come later in the year. Receiving port-critical updates in real time will ensure customers and the wider maritime community are ready and prepared for any new COVID-19 flare-ups and future pandemics. Our team have in any case been publishing frequent port and crew implication updates on our corporate website, which since the start of the pandemic has seen over 223,249 page visits. It’s a small contribution in the great scheme of things but feels good nevertheless.”