Simplifying ports: How cloud and SaaS-based solutions are modernizing port operations

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At a Glance

Port operations are undergoing modernization with the growing adoption of SaaS and cloud-based solutions. Reports and data suggest their growing prevalence in ports and shipping 


SaaS solutions have been playing a significant role in logistics management. The benefits range from streamlining operations, segmenting and improving workflow, simplifying data handling, minimizing inventory issues and preventing last-minute errors. 

Logistics handling forms an integral part of today’s supply chain. With respect to the industry requisites, organizations today are enhancing their logistics operations with evolving trends and technologies. Shipping and port operations are one area where the benefits of digitization trends triggered by the widespread adoption of cloud and SaaS models can come in handy.

Diving deeper

A 2017’s research enunciates the digital transformation trends that are unfolding in the shipment and ports. It hails the adoption of cloud models to be a major third-generation tool (2010 and above), transforming manual operations into smart procedures. These trends, it states, have been happening for some time now. For instance, the Port of Hamburg commenced its smartPORT logistics2 (SPL) project in 2010 to improve traffic and cargo flows within the port area. For this purpose, it invested in modern information systems and port infrastructure.

The Hamburg port looked to integrate different traffic control centers (road, sea, railway) into a main port traffic center that allows decision-making and ongoing interaction with actors, actively involved in transport activities, based on real-time data tracking. The report makes a critical observation,

We observe that the sharing of IT infrastructure within the port community, for example, based on a cloud platform, builds a common basis for digital transformations in the revolutionary levels, a report on digitization in modern ports, published as a part of the proceedings of the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, states.

a report on digitization in modern ports

A major problem, as reported by Ramco Systems, a global enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider, is the need to increase efficiency while reducing costs. As ship sizes and the competition increase, governments pressurize ports to increase throughput with the same infrastructure and better control. Hence, comes the need to enhance the digitalization of shipping lines. 

Harsh Vardhan, president and head of ERP Solutions, Ramco Systems, enunciates the various bottlenecks in ports (specific to India) with respect to loading and unloading, the throughput of cargo, lack of usable and storage space, real-time collaboration and much more. As Seaports form an important and integral role in logistics and even global supply chains, it becomes imperative for them to guarantee efficient and safe movement of freight. Also, as other players in the industry move along with disruptive trends and adapt to the latest digital technologies, ports must also be able to transform themselves digitally.

This is one area where software providers like Ramco Systems offer assistance. However, unlike a truly cloud-based solution, Ramco’s services can either be adopted on the cloud or be deployed on-premise. For instance, its services address the limited availability of space in Indian ports by offering real-time collaboration between the trucks, shipping lines, ships, gates, crane operators and other employee allocations. The offering can also integrate with other systems using video feeds to recognize patterns and prediction of events, blockages. Predictive maintenance based on real-time mechanical sensor inputs is also made possible. 

When it comes to choosing a model, SaaS solutions often tick more checkboxes. According to Rob Zaleski, head of brand at Shipping Easy, a company providing online shipping solutions for small businesses, seconds this. 

We find that a SaaS solution ticks more boxes than an on-premise one, not just because we make one, but because so many online retailers need the flexibility and convenience of a cloud-based solution.

Though Mr. Zaleski commented with respect to retailers alone, with respect to port-specific operations too, SaaS solutions provide various benefits. A feature by Port Technology digital of Luc Castera, founder of Octopi, a cloud-based SaaS Terminal Operating System, enumerates the various benefits that come with adopting a SaaS model for operating terminals. It states that in the world of port operations, SaaS solutions permit ports to free up capital at the terminal level and provide terminal managers the freedom to focus on running operations.

Additionally, like other features – the adoption of pay-as-you-go SaaS models – would entail port terminals to only pay for the services they need, helping small-to-medium cargo terminals avoid hefty licensing fees. Coupled with it comes the other commonly observed characteristics of SaaS solutions, such as easier upgrades as opposed to on-premise solutions and enhanced flexibility and scalability. It paves the way for the adopted SaaS solutions as a terminal grows, allowing port terminals to combine software services to create solutions that fit its needs and avoid paying for solutions it’s not using.

In an official blog on its website, Octopi enunciates how SaaS solutions are the future of port operations.

The SaaS-based TOS is integral to the competitiveness and effective operation of the port terminal. In order to maximize productivity and ROI, we recommend opting for the SaaS-based terminal operating system and team that considers your long-term vision. Choose the team and software that has the capabilities to deliver what your terminal really needs, day in and day out, the second you begin using it and also ten years later.

Octopi In an official blog on its website
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