What port users expect?

By Mike Jarrett

As the region moves closer to total digitalisation of logistics systems, another Caribbean port has launched a development project for an integrated port community system.

Following the announcement in November 2020 by the organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to develop a single window for seaport operations of member states, Barbados formally announced the start of work to build its port community system. And formal it was.

The project launch featured carefully worded presentations from the enabling organisations, including the Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) and CARIFORUM-EU. A keynote address was delivered by the country’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey. All the speeches at the March 3, 2021 ceremony via internet were timely reminders of the centrality of seaports to economic growth and stability, and the arising need to make them as efficient as technology allows.

Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Organization of American States (OAS) Kim Osbourne noted in her congratulatory remarks that there is a straight line between port efficiency and price of imports and exports and, by extension, the cost of living…and the level of poverty in the region. They are “fundamental drivers of socioeconomic development” and they also play a critical role in disaster response and recovery, she said.

The speeches were on point and similar in many respects: praise, encouragement and reaffirmations. The intentions were pure and the objectives clear. But, the presentation by Norman Rice, President of the Transportation Intermediaries of Barbados (TIB) [tib-bb.org], was particularly instructive. In a concise, no-fluff presentation, Rice went straight to the heart of the matter, listing precisely what port users expected at project completion. The port users he spoke for were TIB members, whom he described as third-party logistics providers, small package service providers, and consolidators who operate within the sphere of the Bridgetown port. Collectively, they play a pivotal role in the Barbados import sector.

“Any development within the port (therefore) holds our keen interest,” he said.


Shipping goods in a global commercial economy is a complex matter. It requires knowledge of routes, carriers, regulations and even potential pitfalls. The logistics provider lifts this “burden of complexities” off the back of the importer, Rice said. This allows the importer to concentrate on core business without the expense and costs of establishing secondary services departments; costs that eventually get to the consumers via price tags.

Modern supply chains demand efficiency.

And logistics providers must provide detail and transparency for every link in that chain. There is some resemblance to the DHL and FedEx models, Rice said, “…except it is more complicated for ocean transport of cargo…given the requirement to combine multiple modes of transport transiting third-party terminals on a single transaction…sometimes these are from very remote places.

“On a daily basis, we could find ourselves coordinating a pickup by truck from an inland point in China. That cargo is then moved by barge to a rail depot, put on a train to a port, then loaded on a ship to Barbados.

“This is done seamlessly because of information we get from all the other third parties in between; from pick up to delivery. Throughout the process, the customer is expecting – on demand – information about the location and movement of the item,” the TIB president said.


Ports play an important role in this process. Access to information in real time will allow these operatives to update their information systems and for consignee importers to have the real-time tracking information they need to perform efficiently.

The port community system brings numerous efficiencies – some overdue – and value to the industry, Rice said. And in this regard, port users he represented expected fewer and more simplified processes, especially as it relates to documentation. To this Rice added:

  • Better information flow that ultimately results in faster turnaround times
  • Enhanced cargo visibility through cargo tracking
  • Real-time status information (including status of the container and location of LCL cargo in the shed)
  • Access to delivery confirmations (including gate passes)
  • Access to unstuffing tallies
  • Availability of data for trade and marketing purposes (including ports of origin or cargo; and, cargo volumes)

We especially look forward to the convenience of being able to do business in one space, he said. “(And) We trust that input is continued to be sought and considered from all the stakeholders at every juncture,” the TIB president concluded.