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Leaders KSA meets Richard Morton, Secretary-General of ( IPCSA)

By: Magdy Sadek 

Richard Morton has been Secretary-General of the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) since its beginnings as a European organization in 2011. 

As an expert in trade facilitation and the exchange of electronic information, Richard is in demand across the globe as an adviser and speaker. He is a member of the Experts Committee of the APEC E-Commerce Business Alliance and an Expert at UN/CEFACT.

In Exclusive an interview with Leaders KSA magazine, he expressed his desire to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when the situation allows stressing the role of the Kingdom in the Middle East area.

Morton in this interview shines the spotlight on IPCSA saying: The International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) started in 2011 as a small European association (EPCSA) but developed rapidly in terms of membership numbers, status, reputation, and international influence. In 2014, we officially relaunched as an international association.

Now IPCSA has nearly 50 members, including Port Community System (PCS) and Cargo Community System (CCS) operators, Single Window operators, and seaport and airport authorities, drawn from all regions of the world.

Many question marks revolved within that interview! 

1: How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path lead to this position?

My first introduction to the world of transport and logistics was as a student when I got a job working in a warehouse. I enjoyed the challenges and the idea of being involved in global supply chains that met the day-to-day needs of everyone. 

After university, I worked for a freight forwarding company in the UK. From there, I took up a position as a projects manager with the Haven Gateway Partnership, a public/private sector organization representing the maritime sector in a region in the East of England. 

At the Haven Gateway Partnership, I became involved in some high-profile European Union projects – during one of these, I first came up against the exchange of data. From there, six mature Port Community Systems (PCS) in Europe decided they needed to form an association. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and honored to take on the role of Secretary-General. Everything progressed from there.

2: Can you brief us about your association, IPCSA? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

The International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA) started in 2011 as a small European association (EPCSA) but developed rapidly in terms of membership numbers, status, reputation, and international influence. In 2014, we officially relaunched as an international association.

Now IPCSA has nearly 50 members, including Port Community System (PCS) and Cargo Community System (CCS) operators, Single Window operators, and seaport and airport authorities, drawn from all regions of the world. 

Our members are keen to share their experience and knowledge – indeed, due to our openness and friendliness, we are proud to call ourselves the ‘IPCSA family’. Our members play a critical role as neutral, trusted third parties, providing the electronic platforms to enable the secure and efficient flow of information that is so important for today’s fast-moving, cost-effective supply chains.

IPCSA is today a recognized NGO with consultative status at the International Maritime Organization and UN ECOSOC and we also work closely with UN/CEFACT, the World Customs Organization, the ISO, and several other international bodies. 

3: How do you see the state of the world’s ports in light of pandemic, and what is your vision for ports and global maritime traffic? 

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly raised the profile of the shipping, ports, and maritime sector; people who never gave us thought before now understand only too well how dependent we all are on shipping for our day-to-day needs.

The past year has not only made clear the importance of global supply chains but also shown its incredible resilience. Despite all the challenges of lockdowns and social distancing requirements, ports and shipping have continued to deliver what’s needed all over the world.

 The pandemic has also highlighted that we all have to work together and we have to share information to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and move forward as one rather than as individuals – while making sure this doesn’t impact commercial competitiveness.

 At the same time, we have seen an increased focus on digitalization to reduce the need for paper documents.

4: How do you see what is happening in the ports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their 2030 vision? 

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia works to reduce its dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism, what’s clear is that shipping, ports, and supply chain logistics operators will have a vital role to play in realizing these ambitions.

As with many countries around the world, KSA has embraced the need for technology in the future. The pandemic has shown the value of being able to create smarter supply chains and how important seaports, airports, and electronic data exchange is within that.

5: Have you visited the Kingdom before?

As yet I have not had the opportunity to visit – but I have been in the region and had discussions with representatives of the Kingdom, as well as attending meetings in the wider region. I would look forward to visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when the situation allows!

6: What can you offer to Saudi Arabia through your association?

IPCSA provides a network for sharing knowledge and experience about the development of global hubs for the exchange of data to make supply chains more efficient. We previously had the pleasure of welcoming a KSA member into IPCSA – and we would welcome seaports, airports, Port Community Systems, Cargo Community Systems, Single Windows, and Port Authorities wishing to join our community as members.

7: What does IPCSA hope to achieve in the coming years?

IPCSA is proud to be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. We started with a very clear focus on Port Community Systems. We are now a global organization including Port Community Systems, Cargo Community Systems, and Single Windows that cover more than 500 seaports, airports, and inland borders across the world. We hope to expand that global family even further by sharing and exchanging more data through initiatives such as our Network of Trusted Networks (NoTN), which is a global, scalable solution enabling cross-border port-to-port exchange of information between platforms. We would particularly welcome more members from the GCC region to join our existing members from UAE.

8: The Covid-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the world economy. What has been the impact of this crisis on ports, world trade, and IPCSA’s ambitions?

Seaports and airports have proved themselves to be extraordinarily resilient since the arrival of the pandemic. We have seen an increased awareness of the sector’s importance, due to their position as hubs for the movement of vaccines, PPE, medicines, and other vital medical supplies – quite apart from all the food, fuel, clothes, and computer equipment required during this time.

Ports and the wider supply chain have adapted very quickly to dealing with paperless trade to allow those movements to continue.

In terms of the future, digital projects in seaports and airports that weren’t necessarily high priority before the pandemic are now being accelerated at high speed. We are seeing the majority of countries around the world working towards Single Windows, Port Community Systems, and Cargo Community Systems to achieve regulatory and operational simplification for trade, and deliver paperless solutions. 

9: What are the main priorities for your association in that respect?

Of course, we want to widen our membership around the world, especially in the GCC region! 

Standards and harmonization are key items on our ‘agenda’. We are working hard to make sure that standards converge as opposed to diverging – we need to ensure that we have international standards for transport and we need to encourage more harmonization of these standards between all the standards bodies. 

Meanwhile, we will be rolling out our NoTN into a global solution benefiting all types of supply chain stakeholders and recognize that SMEs need support just as much as global operators. The NoTN will allow easier exchanges by connecting platform to platform thus enable all organizations to use their local PCS or SW to allow for global supply chain transparency.

IPCSA will continue to support, advise and guide government and international organizations on the subject of simplification and trade facilitation through the use of trusted, neutral electronic exchange platforms. 

10: So what are your next steps in light of all these challenges and our journey into the digital world and the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 

For IPCSA and its members, it is all about building the community. It’s a sort of circle of life. Digitalization doesn’t happen without people. Don’t be led by technology, be led by your port business. That port business should lead you to the processes you are dealing with – then the next step is to choose the right tech to enable those processes. That then improves your business, at which point you can go back to the start and take another look at ways to make further efficiency gains! Port Community Systems and electronic exchange platforms are central to supporting all sizes of companies in the supply chain. That’s important to remember.  

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