S'pore port operator going into software biz

Singapore's port operator PSA Corp Ltd has partnered iPlanet to establish a competency center in Dalian, China to develop e-commerce solutions for the country's port and shipping industry.

SINGAPORE--Local port operator PSA Corp Ltd has partnered iPlanet to establish a competency center in Dalian, China to develop e-commerce solutions for the country's port and shipping industry.

iPlanet is a two-year-old venture between America Online Inc and Sun Microsystems Inc.

The alliance is seen as an effort to diversify PSA's business to provide software to other port authorities and shipping lines.

"PSA has developed numerous applications over the years...we have (also) been approached by shipping lines (to provide them the technology)," said Robert Yap, PSA executive vice president for IT, who is also Portnet managing director.

"(We) see potential revenue streams from selling software, (and we are) now establishing points of presence (through partnerships such as that with iPlanet in China)," Yap said.

For the past four years, PSA's China subsidiary--Dalian BHR Consultancy Services Co Ltd--has been providing software design, development and consultancy services for the port operator and its associate companies in China.

Another PSA subsidiary in Singapore, Portnet.com Pte Ltd, operates a business-to-business (B2B) exchange for the maritime industry, providing end-to-end e-commerce services from service booking to billing. The Portnet software was developed in 1984, but became Internet-enabled in June 1999.

Other Portnet products include: Computer Integrated Terminal Operations System (CITOS), which manages in real-time the command and control of information and resources for container terminals; and GEMS, a solution which helps shipping lines manage their worldwide container inventory.

Yap was speaking to reporters yesterday at the signing of a memorandum of understanding with iPlanet to set up the competency center at the Dalian Software Park. It will tap on Dalian BHR Consultancy's existing 145 engineering staff.

Under the agreement, the competency center will receive over US$1 million worth of iPlanet e-commerce software (including Application Server, Portal Server and Market Maker) as a grant, according to Stuart Wells, iPlanet senior vice president of Product Development.

iPlanet will also provide training in e-commerce and Java technologies to engineers at the competency center, Wells added.

PSA's alliance with iPlanet stems from a S$2 million investment in July 2000 in the latter's e-commerce solutions for building the Portnet B2B exchange.

Although iPlanet does not own a stake in the center, it hopes to leverage on PSA to generate "subsequent sales" to other port and shipping companies in China, Wells noted.

PSA's Yap said that in two years, he hopes to increase the center's engineering staff to 300, of which two-thirds will be trained in iPlanet and Java technologies.

The competency center is expected to be operational by year end and all intellectual property will be owned by PSA.

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