By: Jorge Durán, Head of the Secretariat, Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) of the Organization of American States

The design and digitization of port management processes in Latin America and the Caribbean was already underway before the COVID19 pandemic. However, the pandemic served to accelerate this digitization and make it one of the main priorities for the sector. Digitalization in ports makes port management more efficient (fast and paperless) and at the same time, avoids human errors and makes it more secure.  One of the main challenges to be faced during 2022 is the establishment of Maritime Single Windows (MSW), Port Community Systems (PCS), or Port Management Systems (PMS), among other options, linked to national Foreign Trade Single Windows (VUCE). Among others, Peru (Port of Callao) with its PCS, PMS and SW, Panama with the VUMPA, Jamaica with the only PCS in the English-speaking Caribbean and Antigua and Barbuda with its MSW are important reference points. The CIP supports Barbados Port Inc. in establishing a national Port Community System to manage, automate and optimize port logistics processes.

It is extremely important to note that digitization and/or /modernization in ports implies significant updates in legislation, regarding information exchange, use and storage of data, authorizations and digital signatures, among other aspects that must be carefully considered.  In this regard, the CIP has developed a Guide for a Model Port Law, also available on the CIP website, which identifies, without being an exhaustive list, 29 elements that a modern port law should contemplate.

The issue of security, in addition to what is indicated in the ISPS code, must incorporate new concepts as a result of new technologies. For example, there is no homogeneous regulation on drones and/or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the port area, both as security and protection mechanisms, as well as defense mechanisms in case they are used for nefarious purposes.  Additionally, the area of cybersecurity takes on monumental dimensions with digitization.  An important resource is the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) Cyber Guidelines.

Environmental sustainability is a concept that also involves economic, social, operational and managerial aspects. In this sense, ports classified as "Green Ports" are demonstrably more competitive than those that are not, both for cargo ships and cruise ports, so it is vital that ports continue with this task.  The CIP offers a freely available Guide for Green Ports, which addresses sustainability reporting, among other aspects.

It is imperative that the industry incorporates more women into the maritime port sector, from crane operators to senior executives.  Gender equality should be included as a cross-cutting issue in port development policies and in all hiring laws, as companies that have women in corporate positions significantly increase their competitiveness.  The CIP is committed to organizations such as WISTA, RedMAMLa, PortMujer, and the Women's Maritime Association of the Caribbean (WiMAC).

Ultimately, the most important resource is the quality of human capital, which depends in large part on ongoing training, which should be a permanent item in the operating budget. Continuous training is necessary to properly operate new technological, digital or infrastructure acquisitions, as well as for soft fields such as inclusion, corporate social responsibility, port-city relationship, among others.  Although not an exhaustive list, these are some of the challenges for the Latin American port sector in 2022.


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