SAJ, KWL, PCS and Customs harnessing ICT for First-World efficiency and speed
Powerful presentations by Advantum, Kingston Wharves Limited (KWL), the Port Community System (PCS) and Jamaica Customs closed the business agenda of the Caribbean Shipping Association’s (CSA) 18th Caribbean Shipping Executives’ Conference (CSEC) on a strong note of optimism. The two-day conference ended on Tuesday, May 21 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston.
The final two presentations highlighted growth and the technological transformation of the local shipping industry and were titled: ‘INTERLINKED – Bridging the Gaps with Information Communications Technology (ICT) in the Jamaica Shipping Industry’ and ‘KWL – Embracing Global Opportunities: Building Winning Port-Centric Logistic Facilities and Services’.
The application of ICT by the Jamaica Customs Agency was the topic of the presentation by Andre Williams, their chief information officer, who spoke on the implementation of the Automated System for Customs Data, ASYCUDA World (version 4.2), that is making the Jamaica Customs Agency a world-class customs organisation. With the new system, manifests are now uploaded electronically through the Port Community System to ASYCUDA, declarations are done electronically, and customs duties and taxes are calculated and payments made online.
Dwain Powell, CEO of the PCS, noted that the rollout of Jamaica’s PCS started in 2016, with strong encouragement by the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ), and two years after the Jamaica Customs Agency adopted the ASYCUDA system. The introduction of the new digital paradigm was accompanied by numerous amendments to the 1941 Customs Act which allowed for the introduction of a fully electronic system. PCSs are becoming integral to the administration of services in the shipping industry for the effective management of the supply chain in world trade.
Providing ICT support for the PCS is ADVANTUM, a Jamaican company that has been providing port, shipping, freight and transportation companies in the Caribbean with the information technology services required for a smooth and effective transition to this new world of speed, efficiency and customer satisfaction. ADVANTUM’s Operation Manager, Kay Wilson Kelly, pointed out that her company is an active member of the steering committee on Jamaica’s PCS project and can ensure that their applications are compatible in generating files for integration. She added that the company is supported by an experienced team of business analysts, who guide client organisations in the automating of their business operations while documenting their requirements, reviewing business processes and realigning them with the implementation of the new application. “All of this is achieved while planning, testing, executing and monitoring each project through to successful closure of the exercise,” she said.
Speaking very frankly about the shipping agent’s experience in the digital transformation process was Anna Hamilton, marketing manager of Jamaica Freight and Shipping. She said that despite “the teething pains that sometimes felt like a root canal”, shipping agents have seen a reduction in the volume of paperwork generated, speedier process flow in a number of areas, and a significant reduction in bureaucratic red tape in the clearance of cargo, which has resulted in improved service delivery to end customers.
KWL’s presentation was delivered by Grantley Stephenson, chief executive officer, and titled ‘Embracing Global Opportunities: Building Winning Port-Centric Logistics Facilities and Services’. Beginning with an overview of the current opportunities and challenges in world trade and global shipping, he noted that “while the Caribbean, in terms of our exports, cannot compete with the manufacturing giants like China or others of that ilk, the region can carve out its niche in the global market place”.
Stephenson said that “the time is right and opportunities ripe for the seamless marriage of port operations and logistics”. He noted that efficiency, business-readiness and timeliness are what create the synergies in shipping and logistics, more than proximity. He explained, “If a customer can order an item from further afield and receive it in reasonable time and at a reasonable price, it does not matter how close his or her local dealer is, if that local dealer is not competitive in terms of price, service or delivery time.”
Stephenson mentioned that ports in the Caribbean need to be bold in making a number of ‘shifts’, including “a mindset shift about who we are and our potential for growth; we need to see ourselves as profit centres rather than a public utility, strategic and operational shifts to rethink our original role of receiving, storing and delivering cargo to explore measures to add value and, finally, taking the prescriptive steps to become more efficient”.
Ponting out that these three ‘shifts’ are all connected, KWL’s CEO shared how, by embracing them, his company changed course to one of growth and profitability. Among the steps that KWL has undertaken, he mentioned modernisation and adaptability of port infrastructure; acquisition of modern, port-handling equipment; people development; technology and innovation, and measures to streamline operations and enhance customer service delivery.
The more than 300 delegates attending the conference were given a tour of Kingston Wharves Limited immediately after Stephenson’s presentation so they could see for themselves the tremendous transformation that has taken place.