Digital technologies change seaport operations

February 05, 2018

Layan Damanhouri

Saudi Gazette

– After ranking as the fastest growing port in the Middle East in 2017, leading port operating Gulf Stevedoring (GSCCO) says it has plans to optimize trade flows through Jubail Commercial Port (JCT) this year to drive growth across the region.

Jubail’s ports are experiencing a steady surge in activity due to the city’s petrochemical plants. In 2017, Jubail’s import volumes grew by 83 percent, and JCT witnessed a 26 percent hike in throughput, with a 72 percent growth in import volume.

Jubail has the potential to become an import destination, according to Richard James, Managing Director of Gulf Stevedoring Contracting Company (GSCCO). “The Jubail port remains a key gateway for incoming and outgoing container traffic in the burgeoning Saudi market,” he said.

GSCCO, which is part of the Gulftainer group of companies, has registering a container volume of over 680,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) at the Jubail Container Terminal in 2017.

Port operators anticipate significant change in the transports and logistics industry this year. The Red Sea ports are envisioned to become a regional and global hub under Vision 2030. Over 25 percent of the world’s maritime trade passes through the Red Sea.

Standing as the largest economy in the Middle East region accounting for 38 percent of GDP and 21 percent of the population, the Kingdom’s central location is considered optimal for distribution to the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, and East Africa. Resides directly on the Asia-to-Europe trade route, 12 percent of container trade moves annually.

Productivity and efficiency within the terminals are factors contributing to growth, says James. “Quicker process and user-friendly service is key,” he says. “As we identify new opportunities for growth, we remain focused on engaging our customers and partners as well as governments for long-term impact. We will also continue to invest in new talent and technologies to enhance operational excellence and increase terminal productivity.”

The last couple of years have witnessed changes in regulation, including decreasing average declaration clearance times at seaports by half. Around 40 percent of customs declarations are now cleared within 24 hours.

Moreover, the ministry of transport’s investment in digital technology has started to impact the control over the import-export process.

Two initiatives have piloted including a port community system to offer secure and efficient exchange of information and an electronic payment interface to speed up the payment process.

“We’ve already seen a big change in cargo flows through Saudi Arabian ports and container terminals,” said James.

He expressed optimism about the year ahead that holds “the largest budget announcement in the history of the Kingdom.” He added, “We’re going to see developments in sectors such as tourism and entertainment that we’ll be making sure to handle.”

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