Port Community Systems

Most major ports have systems for the exchange of information between clients and national Customs and other authorities. Port Community Systems are a form of Single Windows for Trade, and are similar to Airport Community Systems.

The European Port Community Systems Association (EPCSA) defines a Port Community System as a neutral and open electronic platform enabling intelligent and secure information exchange between public and private stakeholders in order to improve the competitive position of the seaport communities. A Port Community System optimizes, manages and automates logistics-efficient processes through a single submission of data, connecting transport and logistics chains.

Role of the system

A Port Community System handles electronic communication in ports between the private transport operators (shipping lines, agents, freight forwarders, stevedores, terminals, depots), the private hinterland (pre- and on-carriage by road, rail and inland waterways), the importers and exporters, the port authorities, Customs and other authorities.

Typical services of a Port Community System are:

  • information exchange between transport operators in the port and for hinterland connections, the port users, Customs, port and other authorities,
  • electronic exchange of Customs declarations and Customs responses, and cargo releases between private parties and Customs,
  • electronic handling of all information regarding import and export of containerized, general and bulk cargo for the port community,
  • status information and control, tracking and tracing goods through the whole logistics chain, and
  • processing declarations of dangerous goods with the responsible authorities.

One of the most useful functions of a Port Community System is to automatically derive, from information exchanges between the private port operators, that information needed by Customs, such as the Customs manifest. This information can then be sent to Customs without further manual intervention. Most Port Community Systems have their own internal standards but communicate with other Port Community Systems or Trade Communities using international standards, in particular those developed by UNECE-UN/CEFACT.
The European Port Community Systems Association (EPCSA) has also published a white paper
EPCSA White Paper - Issue Date 15th June 2011-2, on national maritime Single Windows, which need to be established in the EU, and which follow the IMO recommendations on maritime Single Windows.

EPCSA has published a EPCSA GUIDE web guide on how to develop a Port Community System.