Developing countries should leverage on technology to grow the shipping industry, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has said.
The UN, in the 2016 Review of Maritime Transport report, urged countries such as Kenya to invest in new advanced technologies to improve data collection efficiency to aid decision making, integrate various services to speed-up processes, and grow e-commerce industry.
“Technology innovation, the data revolution, and e-commerce can significantly transform and disrupt the shipping industry, including with regard to efficiency gains, new business models, use of the Internet, digitisation, efficient logistics effective asset management ,and the greater integration of small and medium sized enterprises,” the report said.
“Developing countries may leverage related trends to cut costs, raise productivity, develop capacity-including skills and knowledge, and enable access to new business opportunities.”
The report says through digitisation and the leveraging of innovation, technology, data, and the Internet-of-things to shift established modes of production and consumption offer new opportunities.
“Innovation, technology and big data may help increase efficiency and productivity, reduce transport costs, enhance the performance of supply chains and shorten travel distances.”
Kenya Trade Network Agency, a State agency mandated to digitise and automate trade transactions to improve competitive edge, has already integrated service portals of State agencies including Kenya Ports Authority, Port Health Services and Kenya Revenue Authority speeding up cargo clearance through ports and at border points.
The automation significantly reduces delays at the port through clearance and remote intervention long before the cargo arrives. The Shippers Council of East Africa plans to implement Electronic Cargo Tracking Note into full-scale to decongest the port and cut costs due to demurrage and storage charges on imports.
The report says cross-border e-commerce trade presents an opportunity to boost the shipping industry.
“In developing countries, potential business opportunities and gains may be considerable, as e-commerce alters consumption patterns and consumer shopping behaviour and allows access to a wider selection of goods and brands at a relatively reasonable cost.
“While such developments have the potential to generate higher demand for shipping, ports and logistics services, the actual impact on maritime transport has yet to be gully assessed, as e-commerce may pose some challenges to the shipping sector.”
Kenya is already a fertile ground for e-commerce and has recently seen a rise in the number of online stores such as Jumia, Kilimall and Chinabuy. The market is set to grow, especially after the government unveils planned portal to stem administrative restrictions that delay cross border trade.
The e-portal aims to track shipment and document step-by-step transit procedures at the Mombasa port and airport facilities.