Genoa - The initial move to digitalization changed the way that logistical operators work, leading to a reduction in the amount of paper in offices and to the telematic exchange of documents. It was the moment when Italian port community systems, after being developed independently in several ports (starting with the port of Genoa’s system, E-Port), are now – with the reform of Law 84 - flourishing as a single national platform. We are now at the second phase, phase 2.0 if you will, in which client relations are conducted directly through digital communications, as the president of Spediporto Genova, Alessandro Pitto, explained.
“In recent years we have had developments in technology that are leading to changes beyond the operational procedures, like those that made pre-clearing and telematic clearance possible in the past; there are large companies like Maersk that want to digitalize their entire businesses. We will have to respond to this reality.”
What is changing for freight forwarders?
“The challenge for freight forwarders is to digitalise all aspects of their businesses. It is necessary to transform our procedures, starting from the beginning and the most difficult issue, which is quoting prices: until now, this has been done manually. The trend is to digitalize quotes and get them from the forwarder in real time, online. This change is already leading to the creation of new players, startups that provide quotes and track the goods through new technologies.”
Are there already such companies in Italy?
“No, as far as I know there are none yet in Genoa or in Italy. But there is a trend towards digitalization.”
There has been talk about digitalization for years. So what is new now?
“Essentially there has already been digitalization of our procedures, and these have been sped up as a result. But this change, although it has been very important, has not been directly perceived by the client, it is invisible. What is changing now is client interaction, which until recently took place by mail or by phone. The challenge is bringing this interaction online. For one thing, the clients are requesting it, and also we are forced to do this by the evolution of the market. For example, negotiations will have to take place electronically now.”
What is the model?
“We’ve looked at airlines like Ryanair. Clients can find out the fares and buy tickets in a few seconds on the internet. In our sector, this is not yet possible, but we will have to get there, because shipowners are pushing in this direction, as are the large freight forwarders and the startups that I mentioned. We mustn’t forget that in 2020, 50 percent of workers will be millennials, who grew up with the habit of doing everything online. It will be necessary to respond to them, because it would be embarrassing for us not to be able to work the way they know how to because our companies are not suitably organised.”
Is it also up to Spediporto to take action?
“First of all, it is a business matter, every company must ask look to itself. As an industry, we have to ask ourselves whether, for example, small and medium-sized businesses are capable of working alone or whether they will have to find some form of cooperation between themselves.
And what about training?
“The basic point is that our work will require more and more mastery of technology. It will no longer be enough to know computers and programmes like Word and Excel, but rather we will have to convert currently manual procedures into digital processes. It is a significant change in our profession. Training is absolutely important, otherwise we will be illiterate in this language.”
With E-Port, the port of Genoa was the first to provide a platform for the exchange of documents. What do you think of the national platform?
“Despite the criticism, it is a positive development, because it brings E-Port to the national level, making it possible to communicate with other ports and freight villages. Besides, there is the length of the concession, which was three years for E-Port, and will be 20 years for the new national operator, DXC. Before there was no incentive to invest, but now there are plausible arguments for medium to long term investment. This should yield positive results.”