The deadly spread of COVID-19, and the economic and trade disruption the pandemic has caused, is prompting port managers to examine new ways to improve risk management and digital processes.
Those are the conclusions in the latest biennial global ports survey conducted by Remy InfoSource, which was established in 2001 in the Netherlands to provide artificial intelligence diagnostic solutions to the high-tech and transportation industries. The lifecycle contract management specialist is now based on Australia.
The “2020 iSpec Ports Industry Survey” was undertaken during the height of worldwide economic lockdowns in the second quarter of 2020 and on behalf of iSpec, the world’s leading web and mobile-based software procurement solution for buyers of capital intensive outsourced projects such as ports.
The survey revealed that 51 percent of port executive respondents now identify risk management as the key area they would like to improve on in the future, up from 32 percent in the previous iteration of the iSpec Ports Industry Survey in 2018. That year, the top two areas for improvements noted by ports and terminal executives were shorter lead times and more standardization.
“I think it’s no surprise that in such an uncertain world the importance of risk management has increased dramatically,” says Pieter Boshoff, CEO of Remy InfoSource. “Disruption to supply chains has increased across the globe causing operational and investment uncertainty and, with social distancing rules, also changing the way we all conduct our business.
“Managing that risk has become a major challenge at ports, particularly when it comes to managing outsourced equipment tender and procurement projects that are often complex in nature and frequently involve multiple vendors.”
Port operators represented 71 percent of the respondents to the 2020 iSpec Ports Industry Survey, up from 58 percent in 2018. More than two thirds of respondents are responsible for the procurement of quay cranes, reach stackers and trailers.
Asked how the COVID-19 lockdown had affected the way ports were conducting business, 41 percent of global respondents said the pandemic had required a shift to more digital collaboration, 49 percent said more projects were now on hold, and 62 percent said they were now working from home more often.
The 2020 iSpec Ports Industry Survey also found that “quality” has become the leading reason for customer/supplier disputes. In the 2018 survey, “delays” was cited most often as the cause of customer/supplier disputes.
“No matter what the business, the spread of coronavirus has forced executives to find new ways of conducting business and for the most part this means turning to digital solutions,” Boshoff explained. “There is no doubt in my mind that this is a trend that will accelerate in the future. It is becoming abundantly clear that for many businesses there are benefits and efficiencies in the new online and outsourced methods they have developed during the pandemic. I think many of the work processes adopted during lockdowns, particularly around communication, will outlast the coronavirus crisis and become part of our normal way of working.”