Global trade and maritime ports: How EY tackles both with digital transformation and data

Bringing expertise, technology and experience to the business of running a port  

TBR has covered EY extensively, reporting on the firm’s evolution in both technology and global operations, most recently in a special report that noted, “EY has rapidly evolved its technology consulting practice and its overall value to clients around emerging technologies and is now addressing scale, standardization of quality across the globe, and sustained investments in innovation and the ecosystem through its common global strategy and practice architecture.” The wide-ranging discussion with Jonathan Beard and his colleagues reinforced that assessment, particularly in the way EY emphasized its opportunity to apply its industry markets expertise and technology capabilities to an ecosystem in need of rapid digital transformation.

The firm, according to James Wainwright, has been building on its NextWave Global Trade Initiative with its own assets and intellectual property, harnessed to long-developed understandings of the maritime industry, and pulling together its global technology consulting expertise. While the Global Trade Initiative is still a work in progress, EY has clearly made a commitment to play to its own strengths, move rapidly in an evolving market, and become a critical, trusted link within the broader ecosystem. Heading into the latter half of what has been a horrible year for everyone, EY’s specific challenges will reflect the headwinds across the maritime port and supply chain markets overall: coping with the pandemic, growing in a turbulent global macroeconomic climate, and investing in the right technology to solve the knottiest business problems.

To set the stage, Port Optimization solution Lead Wouter van Groenestijn noted that there exist “many suboptimalities in ports” and the operators, port authorities and others in the ecosystem collect vast amounts of data but very rarely tap into it. As an example, EY cited workforce planning — ensuring the right people are on location exactly when needed, based on a ship’s expected arrival — can be enhanced through data management, AI and analytics, provided the data is collected and used properly. With skills and experience combining vast and constantly evolving data sets, EY can play a role in addressing specific run-the-port problems, which span multiple ecosystem players, such as operators, shippers, regulators and freight-forwarding companies, and have a direct impact on operations and profitability.

In addition to providing expertise around data, EY serves as a useful ecosystem hub as it is a trusted partner to all the stakeholders within a port. TBR has heard multiple variations on this idea that maritime ports contain vast complexities with overlapping interests, jurisdictions and business models, reinforcing the need for a neutral party to handle shared concerns such as data. Optimizing that data then comes from, in EY’s estimation, knowing what to look for, which only comes through experience working with maritime port clients and their ecosystem clients and partners.

In mid-July TBR continued looking at the digital transformation parallels between maritime ports and smart cities by speaking with a team from EY’s Global Trade Initiative about the firm’s efforts with port authorities and broader port ecosystems. Jonathan Beard, partner, Strategy and Transactions, Hong Kong; James Wainwright, senior manager, Financial Services Advisory, London; Wouter van Groenestijn, associate partner, Strategy and Transactions, Singapore; and Lynn Dike, associate director, Brand, Marketing and Communications, London, described EY’s initiatives and solutions in the context of a wildly uncertain market. The following reflects that discussion and builds on TBR’s previous reporting on this space.

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