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Leading maritime bodies set industry’s digitalisation priorities

A clutch of major maritime associations have called on maritime industry stakeholders, governments and inter-governemental organisations to collaborate in order to accelerate the digitalisation of maritime trade and logistics.

Ten leading industry organisations have launched a call to action for the maritime sector laying out the priorities with which to drive the digitalisation process forward, which they believe will bring greater visibility to the industry and substantially reduce costs, while also allowing for greater efficiencies that will reduce emissions.

According to the industry group, there is a need for the mandatory requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to be enforced, while the collaboration between supply chain stakeholders is also emphasised by the group.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the heterogenous landscape that currently exists across ports worldwide in terms of technological innovations and digitalisation.

While some port communities seized the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution and developed into full-fledged ‘smart’ ports, many others have barely grasped the essentials of digitalisation and continue to struggle with a larger reliance on personal interaction and paper-based transactions as the norms for shipboard, ship-port interface and port-hinterland based exchanges, according to ICHCA statement.

Indicatively, only 49 of the 174 member states of the IMO have functioning Port Community Systems to date. These systems are considered the cornerstone of any port in the current digitalised business landscape, according to ICHCA.

One of the cargo association's key focuses is the extremely complex ship/port interface. "There are many componenents in this interface, such as lines, operators, agents, port authorities, tugs, mooring operations, etc., which traditionally all of them have taken the information they need separately, placing a tremendous burden on the ship’s crew," Captain Richard Brough, Head of ICHCA International told Container News.

There have been moves for a considerable period of time, notably by the FAL (Facilitation and Legal) Committee of the IMO to encourage uptake (and development of) Maritime Single Windows, so called because all relevant data can be entered just once and each agency can take out what they need, according to Richard Brough, but this is sometimes resisted in nations where there is a sense that people will be displaced from their traditional roles.

"Such data also needs to be haromonised across the globe and FAL is already engaged in this work to standardise the data we need and how it is transmitted," he pointed out.

Seaports have a crucial role in keeping supply chains moving and can affect the world economy either positively or negatively. "This becomes especially visible in times of global crisis," highlighted ICHCA.

With the gradual return to normal and the exit from coronavirus lockdown, ICHCA believes there is an urgent need for the acceleration of the pace of digitalisation so that port communities across the world can at least offer a basic package of electronic commerce and data exchange, in compliance with all relevant contractual and regulatory obligations.

"There is no point whatsoever in a vessel steaming at full speed , using expensive fuel, just to arrive at the port and find that essential services are not ready for them," argued Captain Brough.

"National trade facilitation committees implemented under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement could be an excellent instrument for member states and port authorities to drive the change," ICHCA concluded.

The launch group includes the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), BIMCO, the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Harbour Masters’ Association (IHMA), the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA), the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA), the International Ship Suppliers’ Association (ISSA), the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA) and the PROTECT Group.

The full list of priorities is listed below:

  1. To assess the state of implementation and find ways to enforce the already mandatory requirements defined in the International Maritime Organization’s Facilitation (IMO FAL) Convention to support transmission, receipt, and response of information required for the arrival, stay, and departure of ships, persons, and cargo, including notifications and declarations for customs, immigration, port and security authorities, via electronic data exchange, making the transition to full-fledged single windows.
  2. To ensure harmonisation of data standards beyond the IMO FAL Convention to facilitate sharing of port and berth-related master data for just-in-time operation of ships and optimum resource deployment by vessel services and suppliers, logistics providers, cargo handling and clearance, thereby saving energy, improving safety as well as cutting costs and emissions. This can be achieved through use of the supply chain standards of the International Standardization Organization, the standards of the International Hydrographic Organization as well as the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business.
  3. To strive for the introduction of Port Community Systems and secure data exchange platforms in the main ports of all Member States represented in the International Maritime Organization.
  4. To review existing IMO guidance on Maritime Cyber Risk Management on its ability to address cyber risks in ports, developing additional guidance where needed.
  5. To raise awareness, avoid misconceptions, promote best practices and standardisation on how port communities can apply emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, internet of things, digital twins, robotics process automation, autonomous systems, blockchain, virtual reality and augmented reality.
  6. To facilitate the implementation of such emerging technologies and other innovative tools to increase health security in port environments, allowing port and marine employees, contractors, and the vessel crew to work and interact in the safest possible circumstances.
  7. To develop a framework and roadmap to facilitate the implementation and operationalisation of digital port platforms where authorised port community service providers and users can share data under secure data sharing protocols, enabling these platforms to connect with hinterland supply chains as well.
  8. To establish a coalition of willing stakeholders to improve transparency of the supply chain through collaboration and standardisation, starting with the long overdue introduction of the electronic bill of lading.
  9. To set up a capacity building framework to support smaller, less developed, and understaffed port communities, not only with technical facilities but also with training of personnel. Quality data exchange requires a trained workforce with mid- and long-term perspectives to build, implement, support, and sometimes override technology.

Antonis Karamalegkos

Antonis Karamalegkos
Managing Editor

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