Picture the scene. It’s five years from now and your land port network looks very different from today. Reinvented as smart, frictionless, secure and sustainable, each land crossing is designed and built to give users a seamless experience from arrival, through customs to exit.
Harnessing technologies like automation, RFID, analytics and blockchain, and linked with transport ecosystems through advanced collaboration tools, your land ports are now corridors that facilitate – rather than obstructing – the movement of people and cargo.
From the user’s perspective, the experience of using land ports has been completely transformed in just a few years. Queues and delays are things of the past. Truly open for business, land crossings have become powerful new engines for trade and economic growth.
Bringing the vision to life – today
This is the future vision for land ports. Having visited dozens of land ports myself and felt the pain, it’s a vision I feel very passionately about. And in my next few blog posts I will be taking you through it in more detail.
From risk management and targeted scanning, to dynamic lane management, invisible borders, operational governance and the role of public-private partnerships, I’ll map out key features in this new landscape. And I’ll go on to explain how they link together to overcome some of the specific constraints and challenges faced by land ports, wherever they’re located worldwide.
Land border crossings come in many shapes and sizes. But whether they’re entry/exit points in long land borders, bridges or causeways, there are some pressing issues that are common to all of them.
A key characteristic that land ports share – as distinct from seaports and airports – is that there is no single port operator managing the site as a whole. Seaports and airports are typically run by a private sector company responsible for monitoring traffic, coordinating operations and managing third-party services. In a land port, the government or customs service has to do all of this themselves, possibly in collaboration with the private sector.
This trait comes to the fore in the provisioning and management of facilities for the people working there and passing through. Particularly when they’re in remote locations, land ports will require services like restaurants, hotels and hygiene facilities, including for truck drivers delayed by having the wrong documentation. However, as ports become “smarter” and increasingly frictionless and efficient, facilities like these will become less essential.
In terms of facilities, a further requirement may be on-site testing facilities for checking livestock, for example. Rather than sending samples back to a city-centre testing site, having this capability located on-site is far faster and more efficient. This will require collaboration between customs and other government agencies.
Congestion is another common challenge, especially for narrower land crossings such as bridges. Here heavy traffic can create jams that inconvenience users, mar their experience and slow down throughput. Factors that can contribute to congestion include a lack of pre-arrival data, which makes it hard to predict traffic levels on any given day.
Particularly for longer borders – some are hundreds or even thousands of kilometres long – a further common issue is surveillance and security. Preventing smuggling and/or illegal trespassing across such an extensive boundary is extremely challenging. Yet this is increasingly important, especially in the era of COVID-19 when health checks for incoming travellers are often required. Fortunately, solutions are now available, in the form of tech-enabled surveillance techniques such as drones and smart cameras.
…and shared success factors
The common challenges are mirrored by some key considerations that should be baked into land ports to reimagine them for a more seamless and efficient future.
The first of these is implementing leading risk management practices to enable clear segmentation at the border. It simply isn’t feasible to scan every single vehicle or item of cargo. Instead, advanced technologies – using a smart risk engine with clever rules – can now pinpoint the highest risk segments of the flow of goods and people, supporting checks where they’re needed most.
The second success factor – whether the border is “hard” or “soft” in terms of the degree of scrutiny – is making any checking processing of traffic as invisible as possible. The big question for customs authorities is how to provide superior customer experiences without compromising on security. Airports have already succeeded in doing this through electronic passport gates and minimal intrusion on travellers’ smooth passage through the airport. Land borders should have the same goal.
Third, land ports should learn from the model being set by “smart cities” like Singapore. To become more resilient, user friendly and efficient, they will need to embrace new technologies and processes with better connectivity, more sophisticated predictive capabilities and more automation to free up their people’s ingenuity.
Those are the overarching challenges and success factors for land ports as they progress towards their digitally-enabled future. But what are the practicalities of turning all this into reality? That’s what I’ll be focusing on in the remaining blogs in this series – starting with my next blog on risk management and segmentation.
So thanks for reading, and stay tuned! Also, if you have any comments or feedback, I’d love to hear from you – so please feel free to reach out to me.
Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors.
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