Port Logistics Powerhouse ‘Portbase’ Takes to the Cloud
A cloud migration is a large project that many IT managers put off for years. But, what if you could rip the band-aid off by doing it in a day?
cloud migration
24 hour


If you want to see the cloud at work, look no further than the ports of the Netherlands. Their recent cloud migration has worked out well for Portbase, the logistics port partner that manages the coming and going of goods for Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

You could say that it was about time, given the last time they updated their Port Community System was some time ago (17 years to be exact).

At the beginning of 2017 Robert Jan Erkelens, Programme Manager & PO Digital Transformation, was given the task of leading Portbase’s digitisation forward and Cloud was the logical next step. Robert Jan put together a team of internal and external professionals who prepared the migration so well that the switch was completed in a Saturday. The recipe for success? A ‘tiger’ team, containers and a big move from Rapid Circle’s auxiliary squad (formerly Weolcan). 

Customer Profile

Portbase was founded in 2009 by Port of Rotterdam and Port of Amsterdam and has the broad support of the port business community. Their ambition is to make the logistics chains of the Dutch ports as attractive as possible through a one-stop shop. Portbase connects all parties in the logistics chains of the Dutch ports to their software via the Port Community System.

Portbase facilitates data sharing between companies and information exchange with governments in order to work faster, more efficiently and at lower costs. With a growing community, Portbase is making data sharing increasingly valuable, with the aim of making the Dutch port community and thus the ports, the smartest in Europe.


As a skipper you cannot spontaneously moor in a Dutch port. You report your arrival five days in advance, tell us who you are and what you are transporting. The port authority then reserves a place at the quay, customs is called in and there is intensive communication with parties that transport the cargo by rail, road or river.

Portbase made a huge improvement about twenty years ago by digitising this paperwork in the web-based Port Community System (PCS). A transformation that is now in need of an upgrade. The step to Cloud was a logical one. Not only because of the computer power, but also because software development and operations could be brought together in end-to-end responsible DevOps teams.

“Precisely because we arrange everything digitally, we have to keep up on a technical level. For example, communication with a largely unmanned terminal should never fail, simply because no one is there. If IT people write and develop ‘infra- and operations-aware’ software, but also test and improve it, this results in better services faster. Of course you want the migration to be successful, but you also have to be able to explain it all to the Supervisory Board and your major customers.” 

Robert Jan

The plan was clear: deploy Cloud and DevOps teams for faster and better service to Portbase customers. But then the questions came. Because which Cloud Service Provider are you going to work with? How do you handle the migration? What is the impact of Cloud on your customers’ daily work? And how do you ensure that your plan is carried out as you planned in advance?

“The success of your cloud strategy really depends on your preparation. Of course you want the migration to succeed, but you also have to be able to explain it all to the Supervisory Board and your major customers. We were not cloud experts and therefore did not start experimenting ourselves.”

Robert Jan

On the advice of colleagues, Rapid Circle came into the picture. They helped to draw up a cloud strategy that could be understood by the various stakeholders (including the Management Team and the Supervisory Board). Based on that strategy, Portbase was ultimately given a ‘green light’.  

Portbase offers about 45 services to different types of customers. For example, there is the Inspection Portal for customs and customs customers, Notification Ship 3.0 for ship reports and a road planning tool for transporters. All in all, this is a large application landscape that you cannot just move. Rapid Circle consultants therefore first mapped out the landscape and helped calculate current and future costs. With this, Robert Jan and his team were able to make a solid business case and proposal for an approach.

Rapid Circle also contributed ideas about the impact of Cloud on people and processes. For example, the IT Operations team suddenly had to change into a Cloud operations team. Roles and tasks of individual employees really changed.

“We have benefited a lot from Rapid Circle here. They are practical and go through all the scenarios with you. This way you know what you are doing and you solve obstacles before they happen. It was really working together. SaaS products save our people time that they can use much better. Training and Cloud meet-ups, for example.” 

Robert Jan


Thanks to the knowledge that Robert Jan and his team brought into the company with Rapid Circle, they were ultimately able to make the choice for a Cloud Service Provider independently. DevOps teams were put together in the meantime, which themselves became fully responsible for both the further development and the proper functioning of Portbase’s services.

At the same time, a “Tiger Team” was immediately formed, which started reading up on cloud technology and started developing and preparing the cloud strategy. Based on a decision tree, supporting applications that were not mission-critical were outsourced and preferably replaced by SaaS products. Think of applications for Identity and Access Management.

“That saves our people time that they can spend much better. Training and learning from colleagues, such as with Cloud meet-ups, for example.” 

Robert Jan

Because a cloud migration causes a lot of stress in the workplace, Robert Jan and his team chose to simplify the actual transition of applications. Applications were not made cloud-ready, but placed in containers with Docker and then migrated as much as possible to the Cloud. Portbase thus immediately made use of the advantages of cloud technology, while at the same time giving the DevOps teams the peace of mind to make all applications cloud-native at an appropriate pace.

“We started on Saturday morning and finished Saturday night. In a small company, decisions are made faster and Rapid Circle has enabled us to make good plans as well as good predictions, making the transition itself a lot easier.” 

Robert Jan

One day. A major achievement, especially for a small company. Robert Jan in grateful for the small and specialised team they worked with on this porject as it helped create a fast outcome.


Robert Jan is now working on the next phase.

“We have now developed an information platform with cloud technology on which we can bring together internal and external data flows,” he says. With the help of data science technology, they make the service even smarter. “Think of being able to better predict the time at which a ship departs, so that pilots are not unnecessarily waiting ‘on the couch’.”

Robert Jan

Portbase will also separate the PCS platform in line with the three port domains (ship visits, cargo and hinterland), each with its own set of cloud-native microservices. Freely translated, this means that the separate teams can work much more smoothly, but at the same time still form a whole together. “In other words, from a ship to a fleet”, Robert Jan aptly summarizes. Rapid Circle (formerly Weolcan) no longer participates in this. And that was exactly the point.


“They have supported us in such a way that we can now continue independently. Within Portbase, we now know exactly what we have to do and how we can get it done.” 

Robert Jan

Related Success Stories

Handpicked content
We help you discover what's next


Let’s see how we can transform your organisation together

Book a discovery call

Book a discovery call

By clicking “Submit” you confirm you accept our Privacy Policy. This page is protected by reCAPTCHA and is subject to Google’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.