Agata Slota l Palladium - Nov 07 2022
A Digital Solution to Slash Operating Costs and CO2 for a Major Seaport

In Brazil’s bustling seaport of Santos, where every day, hundreds of people, ships, and trucks involved in thousands of transactions hustle to bring goods in and out, a digital platform is ready to bring order to chaos, cut operating costs, and reduce carbon emissions. The platform is a Port Community System (PCS) – a digital solution that connects public and private sector stakeholders involved in the running of seaports, streamlining processes, and integrating diverse port-related systems, making ports run more efficiently.

“The PCS is a sort of ‘iOS’ or ‘Android’ of ports – it is an ‘invisible’ system that connects ports’ actors and organises their information flow allowing for the development of new ports’ services, such as the applications we have in our phones,” explains Diego Bonomo, Palladium’s Team Leader of the UK government funded Brazil Trade Facilitation program.

Why Santos

Santos, Latin America’s largest port, is a prime candidate for a PCS. The lack of integration of multiple systems and processes that regulate the transactions of hundreds of actors in the port – from the ships’ captains and food caterers to security teams and crane operators – means that the potential for human error is great and inefficiencies can be extremely costly.

The Port Authority does not have real-time, reliable information on where each port operation stands, diminishing its ability to monitor port activities and to create new services to reduce operational, environmental and security risks.

A Port Community System can help coordinate the ports’ transactions so that everyone involved knows what to do, at what time, and where. And with hundreds of fuel-burning ships and trucks delivering and picking up goods at the port, often very inefficiently, coordination can also go a long way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Avoidable Fuel Consumption

“There are three major sources of emissions linked to seaports,” explains Lara Gurgel, Trade Facilitation Lead of the Brazil Trade Facilitation program, “the ships’ and trucks’ journeys to and from the port, the idling time - the wait before being able to enter the port - and the maneuvers to berth and unberth.”

“At the moment, vessels arriving at Santos often have nowhere to berth, sometimes for weeks and weeks,” Gurgel says. And all the time that they spend waiting their turn? They are burning fuel. Sometimes, the ships move in to berth, only to learn upon arrival that there is no place for them and that they need to exit the port and wait again. A similar problem applies to the trucks that arrive by land to pick up or drop off cargo, which end up standing in long queues just to enter the port.

With better coordination at the port, ships’ idling time would be greatly reduced and mistaken maneuvers practically eliminated. Ships’ entire journeys too could be adjusted to be more fuel efficient.

“If they know exactly when a berth will be available in a destination port, ship captains can select the right velocity for the journey, arriving just when they can berth,” adds Gurgel. This is important, because without such information, ships will generally hurry to the next port at full speed. Because slower speeds require less fuel for the same distance travelled, if a ship traveling from Port A to Port B knows a berth will be available at its destination in 10 days, and the journey is only eight days at full speed, it can lower its velocity to arrive right on time, saving fuel both during the journey and at the port.

“The process of well-run seaports is similar to that of airports,” Diego says, “where careful planning and synchronisation mean that planes hardly ever need to keep circling in the air before being allowed to land.”
Given that a large container vessel can burn 350 tonnes of fuel per day when cruising at a normal speed, and about 100 tonnes at the lowest speed, the fuel savings of improved efficiency are huge. The carbon emissions impacts are huge as well.

Considerable Carbon Cuts with Big Financial Wins

A study commissioned by the Brazil Trade Facilitation program and conducted by the Brazilian private sector trade facilitation alliance Procomex has shown that if fully implemented in Santos, the PCS will reduce carbon emissions between 40% and 52% of current levels – that’s a reduction of between 59, 819 and 77,440 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of up to 77,400 flights between London and Boson. It will also reduce environmental risks due to the improved integration of processes – fuel leaks, for example, are much less likely to occur during refueling when ship and refueling operators are well coordinated.

What’s even more remarkable is that the financial cost of implementing and running a PCS in Santos would be relatively low, and the gains to the port community major. Another study commissioned by the Brazil Trade Facilitation program and run by HPC Hamburg Port Consulting concluded that “the fees incurred are negligible for users and that the revenue required to make the PCS economically feasible is around R$ 10 million [US$1.9 million] per year… This amount is much lower than the expected benefit for the entire community, which reaches around R$ 1 billion [US$1.9 billion] per year.”

A Santos PCS can reduce carbon emissions while greatly cutting costs and improving bottom lines, an opportunity that sounds almost too good to be true, yet against all odds, isn’t. A prototype of the PCS that was developed by the Brazil Trade Facilitation program was piloted in its basic functionality in Santos. Now, it only needs to be implemented in full.

The Brazil Trade Facilitation program is funded by the UK government and implemented by Palladium. For more information, contact