Digitalisation: The Phase Forced By The Covid-19 Pandemic

Digitalisation: The Phase Forced By The Covid-19 Pandemic

“A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for,” 

Based on the 19th century philosopher William Shedd, potential is of little value if the potential is not explored. To discuss this further, take 2020 as the year definitively shaped by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic -- with 2021 nearly wrapping up with the similar dire conditions as the yesteryear. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia, as well as the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), has resulted in an unprecedented slump in economic activity. (Malaysia's GDP dropped by a record-breaking 17.1 percent in the second quarter of 2020). However, this sparked corporations to rally and revolutionise the way they operate, forcing them to completely rethink the way they work. In other words, the pandemic “encourages” companies to delve into using digital technologies and expand what they previously thought improbable and implausible. 

As such, Penang Port faced the same ordeal. What with working from home, the forced usage of internet tools and the redesign of internal processes, digitalisation no longer becomes a strategic manoeuvre, it has become a choice of survival for the company. With the advent of digital technologies, the pandemic also sparked Penang Port to carry on its operations and ushered its employees to turn towards digital means for safety through the pandemic.

How Penang Port Worked Digitally Around the Pandemic

Penang Port follows a 6 basic pillars in order to digitally adapt its business and tackle the challenges towards digitalisation: -

Strategy and Leadership

A change in perspective with using technology extensively may be pressuring to unfamiliar staffs, which is why the workforce must be willing to try new technologies and become more adaptable and flexible in their approach. Leaders must be able to nurture their peers’ mindset and also skillset in order to properly utilise new technologies.

Team Culture

For a full year, the COVID-19 pandemic had forced the company to switch to remote working very quickly. Penang Port is an essential service under the Movement Control Order, much of the port operation area remains the same – albeit a very much reduced capacity for administration and office work in the headquarters. The change did not leave room for anticipation, as countless events and planned activities were forced to postpone. Although this migration went reasonably well in a short period of time, Penang Port needed its staffs to embrace the daunting changes:

Culture Change and Communication

With the popularisation of video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or CISCO, the accessibility for digital communication becomes much more apparent, lending itself towards new opportunities for training and communication. In fact, Penang Port has almost doubled its webinar sessions and training workshops through online means by 2021. The change in culture – while abrupt and disconcerted, had allowed ample time for most staffs to be acquainted with the routine usage of the online video conferencing tools.

Forget physical gatherings, the rise of the pandemic had led Penang Port to change its information sharing in favour of digital means, by that, social media becomes a much more important tool to disseminate information. By the end of 2020, Penang Port had achieved more than 100k cumulative of social media reach and engagement compared to previous years. The trend of social media posting increased in 2021, with increased postings on information sharing and announcements.


Still exploring the theme of new potential, Penang Port had started to become more familiarised with new media engagements. Staffs are introduced and trained with new video and graphic editing software to better present information or infographics in a timeless manner. Media hardware are also procured to enable the Penang Port staffs to quickly churn up video outputs to meet current trends in digital contents.

Gatherings and events now become virtual, with direct emphasis on the company’s own branding. The pandemic sparked the need for new corporate information to be disclosed in video format. This – along with rapid usage of digital technologies, allows the Penang Port staffs to ready themselves in the growing paradigm shift.

Externally, Penang Port now seeks to boost its brand awareness through increased efforts in video contents, collaboration with other institutions through joint webinars, and upgrading the company’s official website to improve user experience.


Optimising Processes

On the matter of optimising the current process. Penang Port upgraded its official website to provide more emphasis on user accessibility and experience with highlight on mobile access as well. Improved looks and embedded social media links allow users to easily interact with content as well as reducing cluttered and confusing layouts.


The pandemic allowed Penang Port to address the concerns on printed transaction information and has now resorted towards digital or electronic receipt. In addition to “going green”, the initiative ensures that all transactions records are kept in a digitised form, effectively removing clutters and conserving resources.


Garnering several feedbacks regarding visitor’s access to the port, Penang Port is in the midst of creating a system for port visitors, including an online port pass application and new database management system for new or existing port users. 

In line with port efficiency, Penang Port also implemented Vehicle Booking System (VBS) since 9th August 2021 as a direct upgrade to the former PELKON III. The system is also being utilised by other ports (Kuantan Port & Northport). The VBS acts as an appointment system that can be used by hauliers for the arrangements of “drop-off” or “pick-up” containers at the port based on their schedule requirement, which will enable Penang Port to proactively manage peaks, customer demand, and enable a faster turnaround of hauliers in the terminal.


Cloud Platforms are estimated to become one of the prevalent technologies in forthcoming years. In addition to better security e.g.; data encryption, most cloud service platforms will remove the need for clunky hard drive issues or corrupted data due to the wear-and-tear of traditional data storage means. Penang Port embraced these technological changes through a more emphasised use of Microsoft OneDrive Personal Cloud Storage, allowing the staffs to store data either individually or to be used collectively at any time.