Director of Port Community System at the Port Authority of Jamaica, Dwain Powell.
Photo: Contributed

A new online application software is making it easier for truckers and others using the Kingston ports to do business.
The Truck Appointment System (TAS) has been implemented to manage the flow of cargo and trucking companies doing business at the two terminals, the Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited and Kingston Wharves Limited.

Director of Port Community System (PCS), implemented under the Port Authority of Jamaica, Dwain Powell, told JIS News that the aim of the TAS is to enhance production and efficiency and to offer better service to citizens.

“We are trying to streamline the flow of cargo from the land site as it relates to trucks picking up domestic cargo, so that we can increase the efficiency at the ports,” he said. He noted that about 500 containers pass through the ports daily.

Mr. Powell said that the online system, which was launched in May this year, allows the terminals “to set and manage their capacities efficiently”, and to reduce the large number of trucks contributing to congestion at the ports.

“The beauty about the system is that you can access it over your smartphone and so persons can make online appointments,” he said, noting that the process is still being refined.

Before its implementation, persons would have had to make appointments via the telephone or by emails.

“We found it very inefficient and the process was predominantly manual. It wouldn’t give you any transparency in terms of confirmation of appointments and also it would not allow the terminals to set and manage their capacities efficiently,” he said.

Since the implementation of TAS, Mr. Powell said, the PCS has received positive responses from a number of trucking companies and private-sector entities.

“The Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association has reached out to us recently to say that the feedback from the private sector, in terms of the companies, was very positive,” he said.

The Director further said that efforts will be made to improve the efficiency of the movement of containers as it relates to imports.

“By the end of summer, we will cover all the other container movements, which will be the picking up of empty containers,” he noted.

He acknowledged that some persons have had challenges getting online because they were not fully computer literate. However, he said the PCS has been working closely with members of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica, and the Port Trailer Haulage Association to bring persons up to speed with the new system.

“Every month we have about two or three training sessions with the port community, which would include the truckers and the brokers, just so that they could build their capacities,” he added.

According to Mr Powell, the TAS will force companies to do more planning in terms of how they use their resources and the allocation of their trucks.

“We want the industry to move towards First-World thinking. Obviously, with any change, persons may push back on that, but we work very closely with the Brokers and the Trailer Association, and the relationships are good in terms of communicating the changes that are necessary,” he said.

Over the years, the PCS has been implementing new features and refining them with a focus on improving Jamaica’s trade and logistics activities in import, export and transhipment.

Launched in 2016, in partnership with the Jamaica Customs Agency and the Shipping Association of Jamaica, the PCS acts as a single window that manages all trade, logistics and business processes to improve the competitiveness of the island’s ports.

Mr. Powell said the transaction process, as it pertains to the transhipment of goods, is now “paperless and seamless”.

“We have reduced the transaction time significantly to about five minutes, coming from about an hour, and we have also introduced e-payment, so they are able to pay their charges online to Customs and so they can do all of that transaction from the comfort of their offices or from the comfort of their homes,” he said.

Mr. Powell added that the paperless system facilitates consistency in the information collected and lessens the chance of error in the data-collection process.

Additionally, Mr. Powell said the PCS has introduced a “track and trace” feature that has brought improvement to the business process. People are now able to see all the activities relating to a shipment, simply by the use of the container number, he said, adding that they would know if the box has been loaded, unloaded or approved by Customs.

President of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica, Mitzie Burke Green, is grateful for the work done by the PCS to deliver better services and to work on the challenges experienced by Customs Brokers in the system.

“It is great, as it is a web-based solution and it allows us access from just about anywhere in the world,” she told JIS News.

“PCS offers great efficiency and accountability, and that is taking into consideration things like the page changes are very quick. We don’t have to sit and wait for it to happen. It is integrated with the various stakeholders and again this allows for remote processing, such as container releases,” she continued.

Mrs. Green said that members are also happy with “the tracking visibility that PCS gives, the prompt notification and when truck appointments are made for gate-out”.

Noting that the PCS is a work in progress, Mrs. Green said that she is looking forward to the rollout of phases in the reform process.

“We expect that it will have to increase the efficiencies of trade and improve our doing-business rating,” she noted.

Users of the PCS include shipping lines, terminal contractors, shipping agents, haulage contractors, terminal operators, importers and exporters.

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