BIMCO launches survey to gain insight and encourage maritime digitalisation

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On 1 January 2024, ports and authorities around the world will need to follow new requirements from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to use a “single window” to exchange data electronically. The requirement is an important step towards a more digital and efficient maritime industry. To gain insight into how advanced the digital process is today when ships call at ports, BIMCO has teamed up with other industry organisations to launch a survey.

Digitalisation in shipping is not solely about faster internet or data collection; it is about developing smarter human interfaces with available technology to enhance efficiency. When properly implemented, digitalisation can make a significant impact on sustainable transportation. Achieving global implementation will require a new mindset and willingness to share data.

When a ship calls at a port, the shipmaster must submit pre-arrival information to various commercial parties and government agencies to ensure a smooth port clearance. This information includes safety, security, and environmental protection matters, as well as operational details about the ship, cargo, crew, and passengers onboard. The specific information required, and the submission process, can vary from port to port.

To comply with the requirements set by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Facilitation Convention, each country shall establish systems that allow ships to submit the required information electronically or digitally to the relevant parties.

In 2022, the IMO’s Facilitation Committee agreed to make a “single window” for data exchange mandatory from 2024, thereby taking an important step in accelerating digitalisation in the shipping industry.  The new requirement means that each country must provide a digital platform, allowing ships to submit the pre-arrival information only once using a single point of entry. 

Furthermore, countries and their relevant public authorities, will have to combine or coordinate the electronic transmission of the data through an interoperability framework to ensure that the information is submitted or provided only once and reused as much as possible. 

The digital platform is often referred to as the “maritime single window” (MSW). Many ports can meet the mandatory IMO requirements for electronic data interchange for key documentation by amending already established electronic platforms for example through a Port Community System (PCS). Such a system is used to optimise, manage, and automate port and logistics processes through a single submission of data in the transport and logistics chain. It is also possible to use a Port Management Information System (PMIS), which enables the port authority to control all port traffic through a single digital interface. The PMIS manages port infrastructure such as port calls, dues, journal, incidents, waste, dangerous goods, planner, cargo, inspections, permits, services, security, and assets. 

Regardless of the name of the electronic platform, it is important that the maritime single window efficiently shares relevant information among the stakeholders. By exchanging the data digitally to a central data portal, the administrative burden of the ship master is reduced, and the quality of data and efficiency of port call processes are improved. 

To gain a better understanding of how advanced the digitalisation process between ports and ships is today, BIMCO, The International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA), and the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers, and Agents (FONASBA) have launched a survey. The survey is aimed at actors involved in the collection and submission of information requested by the authorities as part of a ship’s port call.

The questionnaire asks how long it typically takes to complete the process of collecting and submitting the information required in a port call documentation process. It also aims to find out how the information is submitted and whether the information is submitted through a maritime single window platform (just to mention a few). 

Some of the required information may need to be used by other third parties such as the agent, ship manager. Therefore, the survey will also need participation from third parties. 

The results of the survey will provide insights into how prepared national authorities are for the implementation of the new regulation on establishing a maritime single window. The results will be presented in a paper to the IMO Facilitation (FAL) Committee in April 2024, when member states will discuss the implementation and potential need for further action. 

The survey will also serve as an indicator of the maturity and extent of maritime digitalisation in ports and harbors. There is a need for collaboration among stakeholders within the maritime industry, and knowledge sharing from all actors in port operations is crucial for the successful implementation and operation of maritime single windows worldwide.

The survey will be conducted from September to December 2023. All responses are anonymous to ensure confidentiality.

Wide distribution of the questionnaire is essential to gaining a comprehensive picture of the current state of digitalisation. Reaching all relevant stakeholders is of utmost importance in gathering valuable input. The questionnaire can be used at various ports and terminals as the level of digitalisation may differ from one call to another.

Should you have any questions related to the survey, please contact BIMCO at [email protected].