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publicationNovember 1, 2023

Port Community Systems: Driving Trade in the 21st Century

Port Community Systems epicenters of commerce

Port Community Systems (PCS) are digital collaborative platforms that enable seamless exchange of information among a port’s many stakeholders, including customs agencies, port management, shipping and logistics companies, and freight forwarders. These platforms reduce the paperwork and administrative red tape often associated with port logistics, leading to quicker decisions and streamlined operations. Benefits include greater competitiveness, more resilient supply chains, lower costs, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A forthcoming World Bank report, “Port Community Systems: Lessons From Global Experience,” to be published in conjunction with the and the International Association of Ports and Harbors, offers a step-by-step guide to implementing a PCS and explains its advantages for developing countries. The report includes detailed case studies showing how PCS have improved port operations around the world.



Ports are vital trade hubs: More than 80 percent of goods traded globally are shipped by sea.

Trade is an engine of development: From 1990 to 2019, low- and middle-income countries doubled their share in global exports to 30 percent, helping to cut the proportion of their population living in extreme poverty from 47 percent to 10 percent.

Efficient port management is data-driven: To function smoothy, modern ports require close coordination and exchange of information among users and authorities.

PCS improve competitiveness: Ports with the highest scores on the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index—an important competitiveness indicator —have all adopted PCS, while most of the laggards have not.

Low- and middle-income nations are falling behind: Among the world’s ports that use the platform, just 16 percent are in low and middle-income countries, while 84 percent are in high-income countries.

The time is now: The digital gap is likely to widen as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud computing continue to advance, so developing countries should move quickly to adopt PCS.

Benefits of Port Community Systems include:

Less paperwork: At the Port of Djibouti, a freight forwarder now spends 1-2 minutes to complete online booking, avoiding hours of queuing, paper-based manual checks, and stamps. Dubai’s PCS eliminated 42.47 million exchanges of paper documents.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: Dubai’s PCS helped avoid 12.74 million physical visits of freight forwarders and other logistics service providers at the port and 42.47 million paper exchanges were shifted to digital, equivalent to saving approximately 3.8 million pounds of CO2 emissions. That’s like taking 347 cars off the road for an entire year.

Faster movement of Goods: The Djibouti PCS has cut turnaround time at the terminal operators to just 1 hour from 24 hours.

Lower costs: In the Netherlands, the PCS known as PORTBASE has reduced annual costs for businesses involved in logistics by €245 million.

Read the blog:

How a digital platform for ports speeds delivery of goods to your local shopping mall

About the authors:

Satya Prasad Sahu is a Senior Trade Facilitation Specialist with the World Bank’s Global Practice on Trade and Regional Integration. He specializes in the use of ICT in trade facilitation and works extensively on projects and analytical activities concerning digitalization of international trade, transport, and regulatory procedures.

Periklis Saragiotis is a Senior Private Sector Specialist with World Bank’s Global Practice on Trade and Regional Integration. He has a firm understanding of global trade and transport logistics trends, challenges, and opportunities and possesses extensive experience on trade facilitation compliance policies, especially in relation to the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization.

Olivier Hartmann is a Senior Private Sector Specialist with World Bank’s Global Practice on Trade and Regional Integration. He specializes in transport and logistics services reforms along international corridors, working on analytical activities and World Bank investment operations in transport and trade facilitation.

Daniel Saslavsky is a Senior Economist with the World Bank’s Global Practice on Trade and Regional Integration. He specializes in trade logistics and connectivity and works on projects and analytical activities aimed at improving the efficiency and delivery of infrastructure services supporting cross border trade.

Pascal Ollivier is President of Maritime Street, advisers to international financial institutions on the digital port infrastructure and maritime trade supply chain. He is the chairman of the International Association of Ports and Harbors data collaboration committee where he is leading accelerating digitalization initiatives with the International Maritime Organization, the World Customs Organization, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

Natalie Gupta works as an Independent Consultant through her own company Port Processes Limited, focusing on ports and shipping and trade facilitation and the energy transition with a particular focus on hydrogen derived fuels. She has previously held corporate roles in Abu Dhabi Ports and Yara Clean Ammonia. Natalie has a PhD in Development Economics and MSc in Finance and Financial Law.