Q & A with the Port Bureau
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Q: How can I find out what is happening in the port region and how can business be conducted on the docks safely?
A: On March 19, we initiated a members-only Morning Update report. We include high-level vessel movement information from the previous day, any channel or terminal closures, brief operational updates from Texas and major U.S. ports, and updates from agencies or government sources. Some bullet points are the result of hour-long conference calls or extended meetings, distilled into just a few sentences so readers can quickly get the high points.
We also recently launched a Weekly Vessel Movement Update report covering the deepdraft ports in Texas. Port Bureau members already receive a comprehensive monthly vessel movement report, but the new weekly report allows readers to start seeing trends as they occur.
From early on, a popular download has been our Essential Worker Access Letter template, published after hearing that our small business partners needed a helping hand with the process.
Q: What can I do to prevent a COVID-19 case at my facility, and what should I do if it happens?
A: The CDC is always the best source for information about mitigation, cleaning, and response. We helped compile a list of best practices for the maritime industry just as the issue was ramping up in Houston. Between that, CAPT Bill Diehl’s experience in the Coast Guard, and lessons learned from health and safety managers, our “What’s the Plan?” in the Captain’s Corner last month covered what he felt were the key points for executives to consider.
Q: How can my schedulers work from home?
A: An important solution could be the trial of PortXchange (AKA Pronto). PortXchange is a vessel and terminal scheduling data sharing platform, and the trial is focused on increasing the efficiency of chemical tanker visits to Houston and Texas City. Generously underwritten by Shell, the Houston trial of PortXchange is quickly approaching its official launch date. Many of the major players in the chemical tanker industry are already inputting data or connecting API data feeds. Continuing the trial is important so that the system can be tailored to meet the needs of Houston’s highly complex chemical tanker industry. In addition, trial participants can integrate their existing terminal management systems to reduce data entry time.
Our partners at PortXchange, in collaboration with Inchcape World of Ports, have done something phenomenal to help port businesses maintain their business continuity. They have opened their web-based scheduling software to the worldwide port community free through the end of summer. This can be a major help to companies trying to share their vessel or terminal operations remotely. PortXchange is currently available for terminals and agencies, and it will soon be available for carriers, ports, and maritime service providers. We encourage you to reach out to the Port Bureau, if this might be of value to you.
Q: What’s next for the Port Bureau?
A: We share your same learning curve, but here are few changes we can be sure of:
1. The information and data we’re sending to industry has proved essential, and we’re going to keep sending it as long as you need it.
2. We have postponed our Commerce Club luncheons at least through May, and we’ve rescheduled our 91st Annual Maritime Dinner honoring Jim Teague, Co-CEO of Enterprise Products, to November 6, 2020. We are hosting members-only phone calls and webinars, and plan on expanding them to the wider port community soon.
3. We’re focused on how we can facilitate communication and business amongst the port community as the situation continues to evolve. We recently released our revamped website, which includes a more sophisticated online membership directory. We’re also validating member company information to ensure company profiles and contacts are accurate. We still plan to print our popular annual Membership Directory so it can be in place when you get back into your office.
4. With so many people working from home, we have temporarily moved to a digital-only magazine format. The Port Bureau would also like to thank our Port Bureau News advertisers for providing the support to make this magazine happen: Buffalo Marine Service, Cooper/Ports America, HDR, Inc., Houston Pilots, Lonestar Forklift, and Suderman & Young Towing Company.