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Port Development

They’ve got the power…


By Remy G.A. Vyzelman

Captain Vyzelman is president and CEO of Integra Marine and Freight Services and chairman of the Supervisory Board of Integra Port Services


Key players who shaped the history of our ports

Why did ports the world over develop in the way they have, with docks and warehouses all concentrated in specific areas? What key role did customs officers and shipping agents play in shaping this long history – and are there lessons to be learned by today’s ship and port operators? R.G.A. Vyzelman* believes there are.

There have been three notable tipping points in the history of port development.

Two of these were related to customs law and excise taxes and they occurred many years apart, in the early 13th century and in the opening years of the 19th century. They set the pattern for modern-day seaports in terms of berths, warehouses and the separate roles of ship’s crew, stevedores, shipping agents and customs authorities.

The impact of customs legislation has sometimes been arbitrary. For example, ports were obliged to expand their storage areas because of slow customs clearance procedures. This was not a positive development, because the purpose of a port is not the storage of goods. The highest efficiency is achieved if the goods are discharged from the ship and immediately cleared into commerce. Goods do not belong in the port. They belong in households, shops and supermarkets.

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