Durban became South Africa’s first “smart port” when the Transnet National Ports Authority’s new web-based Integrated Port Management System (IPMS) went live at the end of July as the  crude oil tanker, Colorado, entered the port using the new system.

The Durban port is the pilot site and similar systems will be rolled out at the remaining seven South African ports, costing the state owned entity R78 million.

This covers concept development, architecture, implementation and rollout by Indian company, Navayuga Infotech which has worked in collaboration with a South African partner, Nambiti Technologies.

TNPA Chief Executive, Richard Vallihu, said this project was a strategic part of the Transnet Market Demand Strategy (MDS) initiative which aimed to address efficiency and productivity at South African ports.

“Since 2008, various feasibility studies were undertaken where we identified the need for an automated and web-based system to improve port operations, strengthen efficiencies and enhance competitiveness. This online system will help transform our ocean gateways into smartPORTs by using advanced information technology that will make them more intelligent and sustainable, while conserving resources, time, space and energy,” he said.

The system replaces manual processes, with key port operations now set to be automated, online and in real time.

Vallihu said the IPMS was benchmarked against Malaysian and Singaporean ports which were among the world’s most efficient. The IPMS system will be a groundbreaking initiative as, for the first time in the world, a system such as this is integrated across multiple ports on a single platform.

“For us as a customer-focused organisation this state-of-the-art information technology will ensure that port information and processes are transparent and easily accessible to users throughout the South African port logistics chain,” he said.

Yugen Reddy of Sharaf Shipping Agency was excited about being able to work more efficiently. “My role as an agent is to make sure that ships are in and out of the port as quick as possible because time is money. With IPMS we will be able to use our smart phones or tablets while we’re out and about to update the system and get acknowledgment from TNPA on the spot with regards to sailing or berthing of vessels,” he said.

Vessel agent, Londa Small of Thembani Shipping agreed. “I am optimistic about the IPMS system because everything’s going to be in real-time enabling quicker turnaround,” he said.

IPMS will link to Transnet Freight Rail’s Integrated Train Plan (ITP) and Train Execution Management System (TEMS). It is also integrated with global systems such as Lloyds Register, AIS (for vessel traffic management), IPOSS (for weather), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and SAP (for business operations, customer relations and finance). 

From Durban the project team will move on to Cape Town and Saldanha, then Port Elizabeth, Ngqura and East London and finally to Richards Bay and Mossel Bay.

TNPA conducted daily intensive training for internal and external users at the Maritime School of Excellence in Durban during June.