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Port Community System Operator, Port Authority of Jamaica, Dwain Powell.

The Government, through the Port Community System (PCS), is facilitating ease of doing business at the nation’s ports, which is critical at this time when the global community is facing a pandemic.

The PCS is a single, neutral and open electronic platform, which enables the secure exchange of information between public and private stakeholders in the port community.

It acts as a single window that manages all trade, logistics and business processes to improve the competitiveness of the island’s ports.
Through the system, launched in 2016, stakeholders have 24-hour access with secure, real-time processing and distribution of information, and tracking, tracing and surveillance of cargo capabilities.

Intended users include shipping lines, terminal contractors, shipping agents, haulage contractors, terminal operators, importers and exporters.

The PCS is facilitated by the Port Authority of Jamaica in partnership with the Jamaica Customs Agency, along with the support of the Shipping Association of Jamaica.

The technology solution has reduced the need for persons to congregate at the ports, limiting the need for physical interaction, which is critical in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Director – Port Community System Operator at the Port Authority of Jamaica, Dwain Powell, tells JIS News that the PCS integrates private-sector companies with public-sector entities, allowing for greater efficiency and effectiveness in trade and logistics-related activities.

He explains that there are mainly three types of transactions as it relates to cargo – imports, exports and transhipments, and there are a number of stakeholders involved in completing any of these transactions. He adds that a set of documentations and authorisations are also needed.

“So what it is, is that the PCS sits in the middle and we integrate with Jamaica Customs, we integrate with shipping agents, with the freight forwarders, the truckers and also the terminal operators at the ports of Kingston and Montego Bay,” he outlines.

“What we try to do electronically is to link all of the different players, but we focus a lot on the business processes. We re-engineer a lot of the business processes so that you have simpler processes, and also we use technology fully,” he notes.

With 90 per cent of cargo that passes through Jamaica destined for other ports, Mr. Powell notes that a key focus of the PCS is on modernising the transhipment process.

“Transhipment was heavily paper-based and we worked very closely with the shipping lines and with Jamaica Customs and we were able to transform that process,” Mr. Powell notes.

“We have reduced the time significantly to about five minutes, coming from one hour, and we have also introduced e-payments. They are able to pay their charges online to Customs, so they can do all of those transactions from the comfort of their office or, during this pandemic, from the comfort of their homes,” he adds.

Another key feature of the system is that it is able to track and trace cargo.

“By putting in the container number, you are able to see all of the real-time activities that would have occurred with that [item] similar to a FedEx or DHL. Once you send a package, once you put in the tracking number you are able to see where that package is,” Mr. Powell notes.

Citing other benefits of the system, Mr. Powell says it reduces the number of errors made.

“Previously with the paper-based system, once you have a lot of paper then it always leads to inconsistencies, errors etc. With the systems integrated, then it means that the information that starts must be the same information that ends the process. So we have seen a significant reduction in the number of errors,” he notes.

Mr. Powell tells JIS News that work continues to improve and refine the system, with a number of enhancements made since its implementation in 2016.

“It’s always a work in progress. Logistics itself is ever evolving and even now with this pandemic going on, our investments are showing fruit because of the fact that we have been able to integrate. A lot of the processes do not require the persons to be physically on the port to do certain activities, because of the fact that we have invested over the years in these systems,” Mr. Powell points out.

He says that one of the key lessons learned is the importance of embracing and involving stakeholders.

“We are always meeting with the various stakeholders to look at the processes, to propose new processes and to get their sign-off, their feedback in terms of the new processes before we implement anything on the technology side,” he points out.

Meanwhile, Mr. Powell tells JIS News that the implementation of the PCS has gained Jamaica a lot of attention regionally and globally.

“It puts Jamaica on the map in terms of being able to compete with other countries from a technology standpoint, from a process standpoint. It allows smaller companies to utilise the system to compete, whether with large companies or even globally, because of the fact that you really don’t need a lot of persons to use the system; it’s very intuitive,” Mr. Powell explains.

“I think that in terms of what we have been focusing on really goes towards doing business. Ultimately, what it is, is that you want to reduce the net cost of doing business and you want to ensure the logistics chain is consistent,” he adds.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR) 2020, published in October 2019, Jamaica’s ranking rose slightly to 71st from 75th.

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