What Does “Port of Call” Means?

What is Port Of Call?

Port of call means an intermediate stop for a ship on its scheduled journey for cargo operation or taking on supplies or fuel.

As Per the shipping Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) regulation a “port of call” can be defined as the port of a country where cargo or a passenger (cruise) ship halts to discharge or load the cargo or to embark or disembark passengers.

While the term ports are broadened and generalised to include facilities and amenities feasible to people and cargo, the meaning of port of call has an altogether different interpretation.

Ports of call are in fact a part of the sub-divisions to the generalisation made to the term ports and are used for all types of vessels.

Port of call is a technical term which is used in all official shipping documents. For the cruise ship, port of call is the premier stop from where they take on passengers for their cruise holidays.

Technically, cruise ports are tagged under the sub-division of sea-harbours, which also includes cargo harbours.

For cargo ships, a port of call is a port attended within a voyage to load or unload the cargo, or for bunkering or repairs carried out on the ship etc.

A ship to ship transfer (Cargo STS or Fuel bunker transfer etc.) which is carried within the port of call will be treated similarly to the operation carried at berth.

Related Read: 7 Important Points For Safe Lightering Operations On Ships

Port of call can include both inland harbours and marine seaports that cater to vessels transiting internationally. Further sub-dividing them, there can even be fish harbours where fishes are lugged and disseminated, cargo harbours where cargo is dispersed and a dry harbour where vessels’ maintenance and refurbishing is carried out.

A marine port, tagged as a port of call, refers to a port where a ship halts so that passengers can embark and disembark appropriately or in case of cargo ships, load or unload goods.

When it comes to cruise ships, ports of call are already pre-assigned in a cruise vessel’s potential itinerary and as such the vessel is required to visit these ports within the specified time frame.

Though it’s the same with cargo ships, the port of call might change as per the requirements. For a cruise passenger, when the ship will visit a different port of call as per the itinerary of the voyage, the passenger might need to pay a port access charge based on local taxes and fees.

That fee is usually charged to the cruise company; however, the company typically does not include these port fees into the cruise fares and they, in turn, charge it back to the passenger.

When a vessel makes the initial customs entry into a country, the first port which it will attend will be considered as the “First Port of Call”.

Related Read: Top 10 Largest Cruise Ships in 2019

Voyage and Port of Call

The Terms “Voyage” and “Port of Call” are interrelated as they complement each other to complete the meaning of their respective terminology.

A ship or vessel voyage can be from one port to another, including the return trip depending on the circumstances. A single journey may contain multiple “port of calls”.

For some ship such as engaged in naval duty, going from 1st port of call to the last port of call and then come back to the first port of call again is usually considered as one voyage.

However, it may be different for cargo and passenger ship, and one voyage can be from Port fo call “A” to the port of Call “D”, in between covering Port “B&C”.

Voyage consideration entirely depends on the nature of the cargo, trade route, the policies of the shipping company etc.

Port of Call

When a ship is undergoing an STS operation within the last port of call, it is considered to be the endpoint of that particular incoming voyage.

Similarly, once the completion of an STS operation within the last port of call, after the departure, it is considered to be the start point of the next voyage.

The data collected at each port of call and during each voyage is extensively used by ship officers and ship managers for monitoring different parameters such as carbon dioxide emission, the fuel consumption of the ship, total distance travelled, time spent at sea etc.

Related Read: What is Noon Report On Ships and How Is It Prepared?

Blank Sailing

When a ship operator cancels a port of call, and the ship has to divert from the scheduled route not attending the assigned port or a series of ports due to various reason. This is called “Blank Sailing”.

If there are any cargoes to be loaded from that cancelled port, the company will be assigned another vessel to attend to that cargo.

If the ship was to discharge any cargo in that port, the company might decide to unload it in the next port and arrange the transit from any other vessel depending upon the freight requirement of the cargo.

Blank Sailing

There can be several reasons for blank sailing, such as:

  • Reduction in the capacity of a particular route may call to blank sailing for stabilising freight rates
  • A ship is sold to another operator or went to off-hire
  • The ship involved in accident or damage and needed urgent repair in a particular or nearest available port
  • Union or other strikes in the port
  • Vessel delayed due to bad weather, machinery trouble etc. leading to cancel of the specific port of call
  • Non-availability of a berth in the port due to closure, repair, traffic etc.

Related Read: Understanding the Principles of Passage Planning

Port of Call or Port Call Optimisation

Port of Call or Port call Optimisation is the process of reducing the ship’s dwell time and improving the utilisation of port facilities to the fullest.

By doing this, the vessel will be able to have a safe environmental impact and enhanced safety and security management for the port, terminals, ship manager and service providers.

Under the port call optimisation, different important information is exchanged between port and shipmaster in real-time, using satellite, internet connectivity, and electronic communication.

Here, the port is considered as a combined organisation consisting of coastguards, customs authorities, port authorities, etc. and they communicate with each other and the ship to maintain a data system for efficient upcoming ship-port operation.

Related Read: How Efficient Cargo Handling can be Helpful for the Marine Environment?

Different information is made available under Port Management Information Systems (PMIS) which is an integral part of port optimisation. E.g. of some critical information to be exchanged are –
• Name of the port
• Name of the terminal
• Name of the berth
• Availability of pilot at the pilot station
• New regulations introduced as per the local and international law
• Bollard capacity
• Tug requirement and availability
• Distance between bollard
• Material used for fendering
• Maximum speed in the channel or port
• Maximum allowable draft
• Weather – Presence of Ice, fog, swell, surge etc.

By having this information exchange interface available for shipmaster and ship managers, it will provide the following befits:

• Lower operating cost
• Lower cargo handling cost
• Safe and clean environment
• High standard of safety at the port
• Optimised port stay
• Reliable and optimised ship- port operation

Related Read: 6 Benefits of Information Exchange in the Maritime Industry

Along with the boarding and disembarking of voyagers, at a shipping port, the requirements to sustain the voyagers and the crew is also loaded onto the vessels.

This further adds to the indispensability of these ports of call.  Apart from these elaborations about a port of call, the interpretation of the term also includes a person’s intended pit-stop while undertaking a long recreational trip.

Ports form an indispensable component of the maritime domain. Without their presence, the whole aspect of maritime operations becomes redundant.

Over the years, the development of technology has brought about a lot of improvements in the port sector, thereby adding to its import and credibility in its routine state-of-affairs.

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  1. We need to have a Port of Call between Ports A and B, to have max pax we can carry on Pax ferry as per regs. However this Port of Call in between, there is no embark/disembark of pax, just need it to be under regulations to carry max paxs. Please advise, do we need to berth, or can a mere sailing OPL and informing Port of arrrival and departure from OPL can be classed as Port of Call.

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