Port Community Systems



Port Community System (PCS) or an electronic platform that connects the multiple systems operated by a variety of stakeholders that comprise a port, or Gateway, community. As defined by Capgemini a Port Community System is “an entity delivering information to supply chains operating in the port.

The PCS is responsible for: data supply, data control, data distribution and data conversion”. A variety of Port Community Systems has been developed throughout the world, and may be separated into first and second-generation community systems.

  1. A first generation PCS transfers messages related to transportation through a network. It exchanges messages (information-exchange systems) and therefore has the mailbox-principle.
  2. A second generation PCS, or Centralized Information System, structures messages through management systems. Upon gaining access to the database through a password, users may send, receive and extract information as they require, and as they are given access through logical rules.
  3. Future generations of PCS may extend to linking port community platforms on a more global basis.

The purpose of a PCS is to “coordinate the activity of firms in the port's landside transport network (which encompasses the transport of containers between the port and a place in the hinterland and vice versa) and to integrate the information being exchanged between various port agents.” Each stakeholder within each sector sends information to a central system, and other stakeholders may retrieve the information they are, through logical rules, permitted to see. Alternately, the system may send salient information to stakeholders in their preferred format.

In summary, a PCS would:

  1. Develop and Implement standards and protocols for processes and messages with the community.
  2. Systematically capture the salient information from stakeholders. Avoiding the requirement to re-enter data limits errors and processing costs.
  3. Centralize community information.
  4. Provide transparency and real-time, or near real time, information to facilitate tracking and
    tracing of goods, and reveal inefficiencies.



While ECIMS is envisioned to operate with a Centralized Information Model, other potential models were evaluated by the Port of Rotterdam in a Blueprint for a Virtual Port, the  Bi-lateral information model
(BIM); the centralized information model (CIM); and  the decentralized information model (DIM). The Port of Rotterdam analysis criteria comprised of infrastructure, messaging, security, and mobile perspective.

Bilateral Information Model (BIM)
In the bilateral information model, information is exchanged directly between the different actors on a bilateral basis (Exhibit 8.4). Examples in a seaport could include direct EDI exchanges between shipping lines and marine terminals, or between empty off-dock terminals and shipping lines. In the bilateral communication model choices must be made about the infrastructure, message format and security levels to be used. This method is clearly limited by the number of stakeholders directly involved.

Centralized Information Model (CIM)
In this model data is stored at a central information service provider. Information can be retrieved from this central information service provider by partners that have the right to do so.  In the Central Information Model most of the issues like infrastructure, messaging, mobile access and security are the responsibility of the party that is acting as the ‘central party’. However, rules for access control have to come from the companies in the e-collaboration network.

Decentralized Information Model (DIM)
In the decentralized information model scenario, major providers of information position information to distribute or “share”, as controlled by each individual party. A broker service can help
retrieve the information from the right source. Most important in this model is “where can I get the information” instead of “who has the information”. The central broker is the party who knows what information is stored where and how to retrieve this information. Agreements between parties about condition under which they are allowed to retrieve locally stored information are needed.


The evolution of the Web 2.0 has created new opportunities to organize, enter and manipulate data. PCS generally collect base data directly from sources such as vessel manifests, gate transactions, customs information directly input by importers and exporters on the system (whereupon salient information is redirected) drayage orders etc.

These would be considered as potential sources of information for ECIMS. In addition, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) requires, under their Advance Commercial Information (ACI) program, that all marine carriers and freight forwarders transmit electronic cargo and supplementary reports using the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) within the ACI timeframes to the First Port of Arrival. ACI for containerized and non-exempted break bulk must be transmitted at least 24 hours prior to loading of the goods on board the vessel at the foreign port. An ECIMS could explore receiving the same data directly from shipping lines, importers/exporters/freight forwarders or marine terminals.

In order for information systems to be able to inform operational decisions or to provide a realistic basis for planning, they must contain correct business logic and operate on high-quality data. There are three steps for getting quality supply chain data for the applications:

  1. Connecting with the stakeholders
  2. Normalizing the data they provide
  3.  Managing data quality.

Resident Systems vs. Cloud Computing

There are basically two different approaches to how the ECIMS hardware environment could be set up:

  1. Resident within the delivery agency – using existing resources, IT capability, and data feeds.
  2. Cloud Computing or Software as a Service (Saas) – where hardware including application,
    database, and web servers, as well as support, is provided remotely through a Cloud Computing
    vendor (Exhibit 8.8). Advantages of the cloud model include lower costs, lower risk, and faster
    implementation. These data networks offer additional benefits based on powerful network
    effects that spread costs and share benefits across a large community and provide a structure
    for cooperative continuous improvement of data quality.

Integration of Gateway Community Stakeholders

The integration options available to users on the valenciaport.net PCS, allow the tailoring to the requirements of each company’s technological level:

  1. Applications on the PCS website accessed through the internet would automatically
    synchronize with the PCS database
  2. Electronic integration between the stakeholder and PCS, supplemented with use of
    applications on the PCS website
  3.  Seamless and unattended integration between Gateway community stakeholder and the


Port community systems tend to be tailored around the unique characteristics of the port, and expectations of the stakeholders involved in the development of the system. Some, like the Ports of Valencia and Hamburg are complex while others provide a simpler functionality. The PCS at Valencia, Spain and Hamburg, Germany, are briefly profiled in the following sections.


In 1996, the Port of Valencia had established three single window platforms that offered services to the port community for Summary Declarations and Bills of Lading, Call requests and reporting formalities for vessels and dangerous goods notification. A study undertaken in the Port Community on documentation procedures for imports and exports revealed the existence of bottlenecks that were strangling the port’s growth possibilities. In 2004, the port launched eport. As a result, valenciaportpcs.net was designed to procure services aimed at speeding up trade, operating and administrative procedures in the Port Community. Valenciaport.net covers business and operating transactions for sea, port and land operations.

More on Valenciaportpcs.net
  1. Sea Services has services related to ocean transactions and carriers. Valenciaportpcs.net is integrated with the major ocean carriers through the INTTRA and GT Nexus technological platforms. These two service platforms are brought together, thereby offering a single gateway to the world’s main carriers. Services include Arrivals and Departures Schedule, Booking Ability and Shipping Instructions.
  2. Land Services enables the agents involved in overland goods transportation to create and handle transportation orders, including cargo acceptance and delivery orders, as well as delivery and receipt notification of containers at the marine terminal or at the container warehouse. This includes drayage with off-dock terminals and stakeholders, and required cooperation between off-dock stakeholders such as importers, freight forwarders, trucking companies, container terminals and container depots. Valenciaport.net plans to expand these services to include railway transportation as well.
  3. Port Services acts as a one-stop administrative gateway in the electronic handling of the documents required by the port itself and by other official bodies such as the Harbourmaster’s office and customs. Valenciaportpcs.net is integrated with the port authority systems to make it easier for their users to handle their requests for Declaration of Ports of Call, and Declaration of
    Dangerous Goods. Handling of Manifests enables shipping agents to submit loading cargo manifests and summary declarations to the Port Authority and the Tax Authorities.
  4. Terminal Management enables shipping agents to send the loading and discharge lists of vessels to the container terminals and also to obtain the respective confirmation of the loading and discharge of the containers from the terminals.
  5. Customs Information provides agents with information about container clearance and the item's declared in the cargo manifests drawn up by the customs authority.
  6. General Services are also offered which were developed to provide users with integral track and
    trace information about the status of goods in transit and to ensure quality control

More than 400 companies interchange electronic data with the Valenciaportpcs.net. The Port of Valencia is currently working with the Port of Melbourne to assist them in developing electronic data interchanges. They are also cooperating with the Port of Shanghai. Principal stakeholders are the main business associations and representative organizations of business sectors in the Valencia Port Community:

  • Valencia Port Authority
  • The ACS Group is a worldwide reference in the construction and services activities
  • Valencia shipping companies association
  • Official college of customs agents and commission merchants of Valencia
  • Forwarders association
  • Logistics and containers transport carriers association
  • Containers transport self-employed workers association
  • PORTEL – IT Services provider for port and logistics business sector
  • BANCAJA – The largest financial institution in the Autonomous Community of Valencia

An indication of the success of the Port of Valencia’s Port Community System is shown by the number of stakeholders using the system today:

  • 80% of Valenciaport traffic is operated through valenciaportpcs.net
  • 28 shipping companies are integrated in the platform for shipping instructions and notes, and more than 70 shipping lines for other services
  • 169 logistics operators are integrated in the platform
  • 167 road transport companies are integrated in the platform
  • 66 maritime agents are integrated in the platform
  • 13 empty container depots are integrated in the platform
  • 4 stevedoring companies are integrated in the platform
    • More than 90,000 daily messages are managed through the platform
    • Response time by message is under 5 minutes


Dakosy – Port of Hamburg

As early as 27 years ago, on July 1, 1983, a harbour order was sent electronically for the very first time from a haulage company via the DAKOSY. The launch of "Dakosy" signaled a quiet revolution in maritime and logistic business transactions. Over its evolution the number of stakeholders involved and Business to Business (B2B) services offered has grown along with the rapid technological development. All logistics companies and authorities involved in the export and import processes communicate their business data via the computing center.

The principal stakeholders of the DAKOSY system are also the main user groups of the system. 1/3 each of the shares belongs to the Hamburg haulage companies, line agents/ship owners and transshipment terminals. It has more than 2000 customers including, haulage companies, line agents/ship owners, railway transportation companies, trucking companies and feeder services as well as all involved authorities (customs, harbour police, fire service etc.) communicate their business data via the system.

More on Dakosy – Port of Hamburg

The Port of Hamburg is a “paperless” port using EDI messaging. They have integrated a number of systems into DAKOSY which is the “single window of the Port of Hamburg”. The list of services is shown below :

  1. Import Platform provides all clearances processes in the port
  2. Export Platform includes all the messages which the business partners exchange with one another and with the involved authorities as part of the export or transit process. In excess of
    600 million data records are communicated monthly.

    1. UNIBOOK for booking at ship owners
    2. ZAPP for electronic export presentation to customs in the Port of Hamburg
    3. ZODIAK for customs processing with the German customs system ATLAS,
    4. GEGIS for electronic hazardous goods notification to the Hamburg harbour police
    5. Harbour Data Record (HDS) or the German Port Order (GPO) for registration at the terminal
    6. Electronic processing of the bill of lading between the haulage company and ship owner.
  3. PRISE - Port River Information System Elbe is intended to bring together information on the areas of ship arrivals, cargo processing and clearance and ship departures
  4. VIP – Vessel Information Platform is new integral information and data platform for ship voyages. Besides the ship departures for the Port of Hamburg, the ship departures and arrivals for all other major container ports in Europe can also be called up. Alongside the Port of Hamburg, this includes the ports of Bremerhaven, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Felixstowe, Southampton, Le Havre and Genoa
  5. CargoSoft - DAKOSY offers an integrated platform-independent solution that can be used nationally and internationally for handling air and sea cargo. CargoSoft is already used by around 400 prominent companies in Germany, Europe and overseas.
  6. Customs Handling – DAKOSY has integrated two systems to handle customs procedures at the port.
  7. ZODIAK customs solution enables an efficient electronic customs handling in Germany (ATLAS), Switzerland (e-dec) and The Netherlands (SAGITTA)
  8. ZAPP-Air, an electronic communication platform especially designed for export customs and logistics handling at airports.
  9. Carrier Handling is supported by standardized interfaces for the handling of container transportation by road and rail.
  10. ACTION supports line agents/brokers, ship owners and carriers in the handling of container hinterland transport. The customer can use ACTION to communicate electronically with the rail, water (feeder, inland waterway vessel operators) and road (container trucking companies) carriers and has interfaces to further partners in the transport chain such as quay operators and customs
  11. TRUCKSTATION supports haulage companies and terminals in all aspects of container handling associated with the Port. The terminals are notified about planned transport operations via so called transport advance notices. The terminals send status information to the haulage companies and notify about any errors in the transport advance notice, e.g.: incorrect height data of the container, unexpected delays in the container transshipment or missing papers (e.g. exemption)
  12. UNIKAT is tailored to the needs of rail operators. UNIKAT has interfaces to the transport partners, i.e. to carriers (rail, truck, feeder/inland waterway vessel), haulage contractors, quay operators, authorities (harbour police, fire service), customs as well as to the IT systems HABIS, WADIS, LPK etc. relevant to rail handling.
  13. Dangerous Goods handling includes location, as well as what other materials it may come into contact with or must not come into contact with and what the correct conduct is in the event of accidents.
  14. GEGIS gives the harbour police and fire service an accurate and up-to-the-minute overview of all movements of dangerous goods to, in and from the harbour area.
  15. Dangerous Goods Notification for the ports of Hamburg, Bremen and Bremerhaven can be made both directly in the dialog via the GEGIS Internet application as well as by EDIFACT.
  16. PROTECT can be used to also send dangerous goods notifications from GEGIS for the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Felixstowe and Le Havre.
  17. Regulations and Materials Databases modules provide information on the risk at accidents, first-aid measures and combating the consequences of the accident. The regulations provide all carriers (sea, road, rail, inland waterway, air) with information concerning classification, identification, material properties and packaging regulations for the dangerous goods transport and transshipment.
  18. Stowage & Segregation deals with the stowage and segregation regulations for any dangerous goods. The system also checks which dangerous goods may be grouped together in a container, for example, and when segregation regulations apply.
  19. Accident Information Sheets for road transportation are available for all dangerous goods classes in 30 languages via the internet (www.unfallmerkblatt.com). Online ordering is possible at any time, from any location. The sheets are sent by email within approximately 5 minutes.
  20. Compliance Check - Every company is obliged under the Anti-terror Ordinance of the EU (EC 881/2002 and 2580/2001) to integrate the examination prescribed by law of its business contacts for the recognition and prevention of prohibited business relations in the corporate workflows. If a change occurs in one of the boycott lists, all the address entries are automatically checked. A measure is automatically triggered after a "match", i.e. the affected address is barred immediately.





Steve is an independent consultant in the maritime sector, specializing in Operations and IT. With over 35 years of experience at the intersection of international businesses, his expertise has been in solving business challenges with innovative process and software solutions. He is recognized as forward thinking and adept at customer relations.

CEO Integrative Concepts
2001-09 VP Customer Technology Ports America
2000-01 Director, Business Solutions Embarcadero


The International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) IPCSA is the successor to the European Port Community Systems Association (ECPSA) which was launched in June 2011 by six founding members, all European-based Port Community System operators. IPCSA and its members play a vital role in global trade facilitation; the electronic communications platforms provided by Port Community Systems ensure smooth transport and logistics operations at hundreds of sea ports, airports and inland ports. EPCSA was originally formed in June 2011 by SOGET, Le Havre, France; MCP, Felixstowe, UK; Portic, Barcelona, Spain; Portbase, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, Netherlands, dbh, Bremen, Germany and DAKOSY, Germany. The reason for forming EPCSA was that Port Community System Operators (PCSOs) did not had a common lobby position at the European Union. The European Commission was, and still is, developing a number of initiatives and directives such as e-customs, e-freight and e-maritime and the leading PCSOs agreed that they needed work toegther in areas of common interest. On 1st September 2014 the association changed from a European to an International association to better reflect our growing membership which already included members from Ukraine, Israel and Australia.

IPCSA Presentation and Links


Click Here to go to IPCSA Homepage
IPSCA: How to develop a Port Community System


Port Strategy: Valencia Port A feeling of community
Port of Montreal News: A Single Window At The Port Of Valencia




Portbase is the neutral and reliable hub for all logistics information through the Dutch ports, including one of the largest and busiest ports in Europe. In this session, PAUL SARABER, Enterprise Architect, Portbase will discuss the Port Community System, which enables stakeholders such as cargo agents, barge & rail operators, shipbrokers, customs authorities and road haulers to optimize the logistics processes, thereby improving their own competitive position and that of the Dutch ports. Among other requirements, identity management has been a critical component in making the community solution successful.



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