Port Community Systems.  

Port of Genoa IS - 2007

The port of Genoa, one of the major ports in the world and the most important one in the Mediterranean sea.
The situation of information systems in the port of Genoa is very complex.

First of all, there are at least six different (types of) information systems:

 One used by the Harbour Master/Coastal Guard for berthing management (this system is property of the Italian Ministry of Transport and is part of the national VTS system, a global solution under implementation to enforce the control on maritime traffic within Italian territorial waters, improve safety and security at sea and support the port operations);
 One used by Genoa Port Authority, for permissions related to Dangerous Goods;
 One used by Customs (property of the related Italian Ministry) for all documents related to Customs duties;
 Several ones, property of and used by the various Terminals in the port area, for the terminal management;
 A Cargo Community System (CCS), managed by SeT in cooperation with Genoa Port Authority, for facilitating the electronic exchange of documents (EDI). This system is briefly described below;
 A system to support the Web Customs clearance, offered by Hub Services, a private Company.
Obviously all these systems are completely independent, and very different with respect to hardware, software, services, etc.
It would be very difficult to draw a precise scheme of the relations among these systems: what can be said is that there is a complex information exchange.
In effect, the CCS is born with the aim of facilitating the integration among the different systems. The first step has been the creation of a Clearing House super party (trusted third party) offering a single point of connection and a translation service to all the clients.
The introduction of Internet has involved a different approach: the existing service has been maintained, but several applications have been moved to Web services, and some interfaces have been developed to facilitate the manual introduction of data and documents.

Making an abstraction and considering the Port of Genoa as a whole, it can be said that the amount of information currently handled electronically covers quite all the aspects of goods handling (operations, authorizations and Customs), and the number of paper documents has decreased theoretically quite to zero. The adverb “theoretically” underlines the fact that several documents (e.g. all those related to Customs), although handled electronically, need a manual copy to be given at Customs offices, due to legal constraints.

In order to make some examples, it can be said that no more than 10 % of Customs documents are manual, the Cargo Manifest is totally electronic since 1998, the Master Bay Plan (BAPLIE) is managed by Container Terminals for all the ships, etc.
Just to be complete, the situation is different for passenger traffic, where manual intervention is the usual procedure and the use of ICT solutions is still very poor.
The Genoa CCS system represents a global solution, able to give an adequate answer to the needs of the members of a logistic community in terms of information and data exchange, and to supply value-added services based on a common telematics platform.

The platform aims to connect the logistic user community, thus allowing a real time spare and costs reduction in the logistic processes, and in the meantime increasing the quality of offered services. Its components allow creating, process and distributing documents to the various public and private actors constituting a Cargo Community System. The system architecture can be described as follows:
The service centre is the hub of the system, realised through the implementation of a Clearing House, acting as a trusted third party, providing all the services and ensuring the connection to other systems, such as Customs system or similar.
The users can be divided into three categories:

1.  Non automated users: These users don't have an ICT system able to handle and exchange information, but are based on manual procedures or on “closed” ICT systems.
2.  Users with legacy system not enabled for B2B (Business to Business) exchange: These users have an ICT system, but it is not used it to exchange documents and information with the partners, because it is not totally able to handle and generate documents fully compliant with the existing standards. This category is the greatest in terms of number of members, all those using traditional (or traditionally used) ICT systems.
3.  Users with legacy system B2B (Business to Business)  / B2G (Business to Government) enabled: These users have an ICT system capable to handle all the relevant information, and they already use it to exchange documents and information with the partners. This category includes the most evolved users, and also user’s communities based on traditional EDI centres, portals or B2B and B2G systems.
A user belongs to one category according to the information process and to the exchanged documents, and not according to his own ICT structure; thus, a single user can connect to a Cargo / Port Community System in different ways, according to data and documents to be exchanged.
The system provides a solution that fulfils any different category of user needs thus allowing a total and successful integration among all the components of a community.
The connection to the Centre can be done in different ways:

1.  B2B/ B2G-enabled system can use a standard and controlled protocol (FTP, HTTP, SMTP);
2.  Non B2B-enabled system can connect through the Legacy Connector, that interfaces the Service Centre to the user's legacy system;
3.  All the users can connect through the Internet portal.
The system is entirely based upon Internet communication platform, thus reducing to a minimum the necessary effort requested to join the community.
The system offers the following basic services:

1.  A messaging service, to support business document exchange among the logistic operators, in a two-step process of store and forward;
2.  A support to electronic transactions, to co-ordinate the exchange of several documents and their processing within a specific business process. This way, it is possible to automatically activate a process, whenever a message enters the system, so as to perform operations without intervention: e.g., it is possible to create a new document as a subset of the current one, to execute other applications or to carry on support activities.

One of the most common automatic processes is the conversion between two different formats of a document; in order to allow a document exchange between users having different data formats.
The Service Centre can be connected with other external systems, like Banks and Insurance, Railways, Customs, etc.: this enlarges the offered services, while providing in the meantime to the user a single access point to carry on several activities.
Moreover, vertical applications are implemented to offer a specific service, e.g. the electronic payments of transport services, tracing and tracking of goods, automatic numbering of Customs manifests, etc.

The system components are:

 A central hub for messages exchange handling, including a converter 'any-to-any', for the translation between different message formats, both standard (EDIFACT, ANSI X12, etc.) and proprietary, without constraints;
 A system for facilitating messages data handling and dispatching to the legacy systems not B2B-compliant;
 A Java-based application running on the Web to handle the creation and the update of electronic documents via Internet, and their submission to the system.

A very relevant element in the platform is constituted by the standard platform messages. These messages are internally represented using XML standard, and are defined using XML schemes considering as much as possible the state of the art on XML.