San Diego Photo 37660569 © Bdingman
Photo: © Bdingman

The five largest ports in California have teamed up to open data silos to enable better flow of data between industry stakeholders.

With support from the state government, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego and Port Hueneme have signed an MoU for a California Port Data Partnership to “facilitate the sharing of data for the purpose of enhancing supply chain visibility and to facilitate the flow of goods”.

The state government has organised bi-weekly round-table meetings to bring this to the launchpad and is chipping-in $27m.

Danny Wan, president of the California Association of Port Authorities and executive director of the port of Oakland, said: “It is vital our state prioritises investments that will get goods moving faster.”

The collaboration will cover 11 areas, from developing data definitions and standards to ensuring equitable access for users. The participants will identify data elements and data sources and produce common definitions and standards, and they plan to develop use cases.

Port users agree such an initiative is meeting a vital need. Weston LaBar, SVP industry relations at Cargomatic, said the continuing advance of technology required data sharing, which, in turn, hinged on quality data.

Gene Seroka, executive director of the port of Los Angeles, added that analytics derived from shared data were “not just a competitive advantage, it’s now a public necessity”.

However, Paul Brashier, VP of drayage and intermodal at ITS Logistics, said it was a good start, but there was a long way to go. At a lot of terminals, data are not readily available, he noted.

The initiative aims to overcome a fundamental problem that has stymied efforts at data sharing so far. As ports and terminal operators invested in their own customer-facing platforms, they were unwilling to embrace a rival portal and write off their own investments. The new drive aims to connect the various platforms and systems in play, rather than favour one.

It marks a pivot from trying to establish solutions towards a framework, noted Mr LaBar, a former CEO of the LA/Long Beach Harbor Trucking Association, which has pushed for years for a single appointment platform to end the slalom through multiple terminal and port systems.

In his eyes, an even more momentous step forward is that the state got involved and is funnelling some money into the undertaking. He said: “The big thing is not the MoU, but that the government is getting behind digital infrastructure as part of overall infrastructure investment, and is going to put resources behind this.”

In total, the California government is spending around $1.2bn on freight and infrastructure projects.

At this point, neither the authorities nor the ports involved have indicated how they intend to engage other stakeholders in the industry. Mr Brashier stressed that it was important to get as many as possible involved to make significant headway.

“We need to re-engage the private sector in the process,” added Mr LaBar. A second important element would be to extend the initiative beyond California to engage more US states.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.