A Port Community System (PCS) refers to an open and neutral platform that connects multiple systems, thus enabling the secure and intelligent exchange of information between the different organizations that make up an airport or seaport community. It is a shared platform that is organized and used by public and private stakeholders that may include key stakeholders such as:

  1. Agents/Shipping Lines
  2. Customs & Excise
  3. Logistics Providers/Freight Forwarders
  4. Other Government Agencies (OGA’s)
  5. Rail and Road Operators
  6. Terminal Operators/Port Authorities
  7. Warehouse Operators (CFS-Container Freight Stations)

The secure and intelligent exchange of information makes it possible to optimize, manage and automate port and logistics processes, making for an efficient process that enhances the competitive position of air and seaport communities.

What is A Port Community System Operator?

Refers to either a private, public or private/public organization charged with maintaining and operating the Port Community System, where the core of the organization’s business is the Port Community System.

It typically comes with a steering committee or a kind of board that has representatives from the various external and internal groups of the Logistics and Port community.

It usually manages the electronic exchange of information on behalf of Port Community System users according to the service level agreements signed by both parties.

Core Functional Areas of the Port Community System (PCS)

  1. Customs Declarations
  2. Exports
  3. Imports
  4. Inland Clearance (CFS including stuffing/unstuffing/devanning)
  5. Maritime Statistics
  6. Hazmat and dangerous goods
  7. Track & trace
  8. Rail/Road Transportation
  9. Transshipments
  10. Voyage/Vessel arrivals/departures
  11. Waste Reporting (ballast water)

The Strategic Alliance between the Port Community Systems and Single Window

The PCS offers a means for the electronic exchange of information between the logistics sectors and the port. It is now the most advanced way to exchange information within a national or single port community system.

A PCS can either integrate into a National Single Window or act as a National Single Window. As such, it can be critical in the implementation or development of the Single Window concept to provide electronic exchange of data as it reduces duplication.

Services Provided by a Port Community System

The Port Community system is modular in that it is created to provide tools needed by the different players and sectors engaged in trade, thus providing a highly integrated system. Designed by port users for port users, it streamlines a range of functions such as maritime statistics reporting, exports, imports, hazardous cargo, consolidations, and transshipments.

Some of the key features and services provided by a PCS include:

  1. Efficient easy and fast EDI information exchange, centralization and re-use, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  2. Processing of maritime and other statistics
  3. Customs declarations
  4. Processing of dangerous goods
  5. Electronic handling of information on containerized, bulk and breakbulk cargo
  6. Track & trace

Role of Port Community Systems

At its core the Port Community System performs three core roles:

Gateway into Single Window systems:

  • Acts as a Trusted Third Party
  • Combines administrative and operations procedures
  • Reduces the number of interfaces into government line Ministries and Agencies

A Promoter of Globalization:

  • PCS help increase global trade
  • Helps with sharing of data on container/consignments and vessels for better reporting
  • PCS link ports across the world through initiatives such as the IPCSA Initiative

Enhance Multimodal Logistics Chains

  • They offer a seamless exchange of information in the multimodal chain between different parties.

How to develop a Port Community System

There are twelve critical actions that need to be taken in the development of a Port Community System:

Action 1: Create a Common Understanding of a Port Community System

Before the PCS is developed it is important that all stakeholders have a common understanding of the roles and function of the Port Community system being proposed.

Action 2: Why have a Port Community System?

The stakeholders need to know the reasons for the establishment of the PCS. Some of these reasons may include;

  • Reducing inefficiencies at the port of entry by streamlining processes
  • Facilitating the exchange of data
  • Integrating and achieving compliance with national and international standards
  • Reducing delays In clearance of cargo

Action 3: How to start the development of a PCS – the Community

It is critical to get the buy-in of the port community which will involve:

  • Getting the community that includes government agencies, customs, port authorities, shipping lines, and users to buy into the project.
  • Identify a leader who will be responsible for bringing the port community together to establish the PCS that will work for the interests of the community and independent of its own interests.
  • Identify the business and legal models including financing that will develop the PCS into an honest and trusted broker in the eyes of the community.

Action 4: Ambassadors

The identification of ambassadors or an ambassador charged with promoting the PCS concept and its implementation abroad and in the locale. The ambassadors will also be responsible for researching how other PCS systems work and how this may be implemented or how it relates to local circumstances.

Action 5: Communication

It is critical to have a two-way approach to communication by involving all stakeholders such as Customs, ports, port users, government ministries, shipping lines, OGAs, etc. by asking for opinions and taking examples.

Action 6: Identification of Core Business Processes to be addressed

The core business processes will vary depending on the port location, business processes and the varying interests of the different stakeholders. Some of the important processes to be identified are:

  • Finding agreement with core community processes
  • Outlining the challenges inherent in current processes and the benefits that may come from simplified electronic systems

Action 7: Customs Integration

This will involve:

  • Moving Stakeholders to Authorized Economic Operators (AEO’s) or equivalent
  • Reforming of customs procedures
  • Working with the World Customs Organization (WCO) Guidance on PCS system development

Action 8: Legal Framework

Take into consideration the legal frameworks that will govern the operation of the Port Community System. For instance, the PCS may have to take into account directives, legislation and regulation such as Customs Acts and procedures. Data Protection Act and Marine Directives and Acts in contexts such as:

  • Worldwide/International
  • Local/Regional such as municipal rules

Action 9: PCS Organization

This will involve aspects such as:

  • Governance
  • Model – public, private or joint public/private partnership (PPP)
  • Types of shares and shareholding
  • Financing

Action 10: Development Groups

The identification of important community stakeholders to take part in the development and resolution of issues is critical. This will involve the identification of experts for each business process and the management of processes and timelines for the processes.

Action 11: Best Practices

Using existing knowledge of existing PCS, share experience and knowledge and import working systems where necessary.

Action 12: Long-term Operation

To have a sustainable Port Community System it is critical that the following be identified:

  • Revenue Streams

Most PCS have a mixed revenue stream that may be structured as

  1. Fee per stakeholder
  2. Fee per unit charge (hour, tonnage, barrel, customs declaration, TEU, etc) or per EDI transaction charge or per service charge
  • The monthly or annual subscription fee for all service or per service
  • Update of systems to make them compliant with National and International Directives and regulations
  • Ongoing development

The Phases of Development of the Port Community System

The setting up of the Port Community system is done through several phases. The number of steps will be determined by the level of information technology available. The following are the three phases:

Phase One: Development of key channels

The first critical step in the development of channels including the channels for repetitive and standard procedures. These will include the provision for the exchange of documents such as reporting of dangerous goods, cargo manifest, vessel arrivals/departures, and customs declarations.

Phase Two: Port community systems

Once the key channels are up and running, the PCS is ready to be set up. What follows is the setting up of inland freight distribution and maritime shipping information systems. At this point, more actors including inland transport firms and freight forwarders are brought in. This will ensure an unbroken information chain from the port right to inland distribution centers.

Phase Three: Expanded port community systems

Once the port community system is set and users have adopted it, the next step is the improvement of quality and multiplying the effects. This may favour the adoption of best practices and technologies such as complete digitization of all documents and the use of RFID to promote seamless cargo movement.


The Port Community System provides a lot of benefits for all parties involved. It increases the speed and efficiency of port processes through the reduction and automatization of paperwork. By eliminating unnecessary paperwork the PCS with its multi-faceted, real-time, flexible, fast and focused system improves efficiency in the processes of port formalities, manifesting, customs clearance, vehicle loading and discharge and delivery in and out of the terminal. The Port Community system also offers cost reduction and enhanced security and potentially makes each stakeholder more competitive.

Book a Free Consultation Today

Recent Blogs

Stay Connected

Get Customs City news
delivered to your