UN’s Trust Fund Facilitates ‘Digital Ports’ in Latin America and the Caribbean

NEW YORK (IDN) – The Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF), managed by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), has partnered with the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA) to map current trends, share best practices and promote sound and cooperative policies for ports in Latin America and the Caribbean.

PGTF was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1983, to support activities in economic and technical cooperation among developing countries members of the Group of 77, comprising 134 out of 193 member countries of the UN.

Named after the UNCTAD Secretary-General March 1969-March 1974, the Fund provides catalytic financial support for South-South cooperation activities. It facilitates a broad range of small projects in response to the priorities of developing countries.

To date, PGTF has provided catalytic financial support to 278 cooperative projects carried out by three or more developing countries. 125 countries have received or benefited from small grants that facilitated South-South partnerships and networks among institutions of the global South. The fund supported activities in various fields: technical cooperation, food and agriculture, trade, technology, information exchange and others.

As one of its latest projects, PGTF facilitated a meeting of 14 SELA Member States in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, from April 23-24, 2015. Five multilateral agencies and five national port authorities joined.

The focus of the exchange was ‘Digital Ports’. According to UNOSSC, the meeting encouraged a new phase of modernization of ports in Latin America and the Caribbean, with increased incorporation of digital technologies so as to streamline ports and global value chains, move towards new standards of service in maritime and terrestrial transport, and thereby reduce costs and increase competitiveness for international trade in the region.

With the growing importance of South-South trade and maritime transport, there is a clear need for significant investment to improve port infrastructure and digital cooperation, said Kingsley Mamabolo, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, and Chair of the Group of 77 at the time.

Temistocles Montas, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic, said that besides cooperation on “hard” infrastructure components affecting ports, such as transport, roads, telecommunications and storage, the meeting briefed International Cooperation Directors from Latin America, on the advantages of upgrading “soft” elements key to the activities of ports, such as administrative and customs procedures, organization and management of transportation, packaging and inventory practices, and tracking and location services.

Discussions on adequate public policies for optimization of port services through the increased digitalization of port activities were complemented with exchanges of successful practices, reported UNOSSC.

For example, representatives of Ecuador and Peru presented their experiences with ‘Port Single Windows’, which involve the creation of virtual portals for integrated procedures encompassing customs, health and sanitation, licensing and logistics. Data shared digitally through the port’s integrated portal, supports the various services provided to ships prior to arrival – facilitating port logistics chains.

The representative of Chile explained recent efficiency gains at the Valparaiso Port involving constant digital monitoring to prevent bottlenecks during inspection, storage and dispatching of cargo.

The representative of Mexico discussed how information and communication technologies have made port services in Mexico more efficient by streamlining the operational and administrative procedures of ports and significantly reducing transaction times.

A key success of this meeting, UNOSSC reported, was to broaden the dialogue on the role of ports, notably digital ports, in facilitating trade and development across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Beyond relevant authorities, the meeting brought to the attention of International Cooperation Directors the extent to which increased cooperation on port optimization can advance sustainable development in the region. The meeting also enabled decision makers to share and learn from a number of successful practices in the region. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 February 2016]

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

Photo credit: PGTF

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