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: