UNCTAD Port Data Project Gets New Members

Thirteen new ports joined the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) data project in November 2016, bringing the total to forty-two participating ports from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Started in 2013, the project covers 23 indicators on financial stability, labor productivity and operational efficiency of ports. Some of the participating members are ports of Angola, Benin, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Namibia, Peru, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.

“For ports to work better, managers need to benchmark their performance on a wide range of indicators,” Mark Assaf, the project’s manager, said, adding that there is a lack of reliable data for port managers.

According to Assaf, most port data is aggregated at country – not individual port – level, and there are few global standards, with the exception of containers. Port managers want to know that they can trust the data, Assaf explained.

“This is why from day one we’ve made sure the ports in the project agree on the indicators, the units of measurement and the methodology,” he said, adding that UNCTAD verifies the data and ensures it remains confidential.

The customized assessment — called a scorecard — looks at indicators ranging from revenue generated per employee, to average ship waiting times, to tonnage handled per hectare of land.

One port’s scorecard, for example, showed that its handling rates are competitive for containers but not for dry bulk. For another port, it revealed that labor costs are competitive, but that this is due more to lower wages than higher productivity, according to UNCTAD.

“The type of detailed performance analysis the scorecard allows is extremely helpful for honing in on the weaker links in our operations, and coming up with better strategies,”  Hector Miole, assistant general manager for operations at the Philippine Ports Authority, said.

“As an island nation, we manage hundreds of ports, and not all provide the same data, so the project is helping us harmonize information too,” Miole further said.

The ports’ scorecards, which currently assess data from 2010–2015, will be updated annually.

UNCTAD has been helping ports improve their management since 1996, working with some 200 ports in 29 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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