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BIC and DCSA join forces to standardise container facility codes

Bureau International des Containers (BIC) and DCSA (Digital Container Shipping Association) have announced the completion of their collaboration to standardise the codes used to identify facilities such as depots, container yards, M&R (Maintenance and Repair) vendors and other supply chain container facilities.

Thanks to the active participation of DCSA member ocean carriers as well as several of the largest leasing companies, the organisations have achieved a clean, machine-readable database of over 11,000 facilities in 160 countries, according to an announcement.

Each facility in the database has a structured address, GPS coordinates and a nine-character BIC Facility Code assigned to it that can be easily consumed by existing Information Technology systems to facilitate adoption.

Machine learning techniques were used to sanitise and align nearly 30,000 facility codes from 10 major carriers and lessors, resulting in high-quality, harmonised facility names, addresses, GPS co-ordinates, and the standardised code the industry was looking for.

DCSA Track & Trace standards, for example, now refer to the BIC Facility Code to identify places for supply chain events without ambiguity.

“Over the last few years, our industry’s data silo mentality has rapidly given way to a new appreciation of standardisation and the efficient sharing of data. This new focus has allowed us to conduct a global facility code harmonization we have long wished to complete, thanks in large part to the DCSA’s assistance in actively engaging the major carriers," commented Douglas Owen, Secretary General of the BIC.

The application programming interface (API), currently available on SwaggerHub, will enable supply chain participants to ensure their systems are utilising a unique, standardised code for every container facility. Those wishing to host their own version can subscribe to automatic synchronous updates to ensure they are always up to date.

In addition, the API serves both the BIC Facility Code and the SMDG Ocean Terminal code lists, meaning the industry can access a one-stop API for the 11,000+ BIC Facility Codes and 900+ SMDG Ocean Terminal Codes.

The BIC Facility Code, or “Locode”, was originally developed under international standard ISO 9897, assigned to the BIC in 1997, and is now a listed “child code” of the UN/Locode. Adoption of the harmonised codes is expected to result in smoother communication between parties, quicker identification of facilities by third parties such as motor carriers and telematics providers, more efficient lessor-leasee communications related to on/off-hires, and better visibility for BCOs.

Geo-features (geo-fencing coordinates) are planned for the future, which will make the database even more valuable, according to a statement, for operators of smart containers or assets looking to automatically confirm the facility in which a container is located or to enable location-based automation.

“At the outset of DCSA, our Chairman André Simha pointed to the non-standard facility code as a simple yet effective example of the kind of standardization where the industry needs to play catch up with other industries, such as air travel, which utilizes a standard airport code worldwide,” said Thomas Bagge, CEO at DCSA, who went on to add, “With the standardization of the BIC Facility Code and the API, the container transportation industry is one step closer to this goal. This is a good example of the foundational work required to make digital transformation a reality in container shipping, and we are pleased to be a part of this important collaboration with BIC.”

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