Electronic data exchange option between ships and ports becomes mandatory

A mandatory requirement under IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports came into effect this week, as the Organisation tries to accelerate the digitalisation of data in maritime transport.

The FAL Convention, which has 121 contracting governments, contains standards and recommended practices and rules for simplifying formalities, documentary requirements and procedures on ships’ arrival, stay and departure at international ports.

The new electronic exchange requirement is part of a package of amendments under the revised Annex to the FAL Convention, adopted in 2016. The ultimate goal is to make cross-border trade simpler and more efficient for the more than 10 billion tons of goods which are traded by sea annually across the globe.

Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General

“The new FAL Convention requirement for all Public Authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information related to maritime transport marks a significant move in the maritime industry and ports towards a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport,” said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.

The Facilitation Convention encourages use of a ‘single window’ for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication. 

The requirement for electronic data exchange comes into effect as IMO’s Facilitation Committee meets for its 43rd session this week. Alongside other agenda items, the Committee says it will continue its ongoing work on harmonisation and standardisation of electronic messages during the meetings.

Phase one of the review of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic business, including the data elements of the FAL Convention, is expected to be completed during the session, and the revised Guidelines for setting up a single window system in maritime transport are set to be approved.

The Committee will also receive an update on an IMO maritime single window project already implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, with support from Norway. The source code developed for that system will be made available to other interested Member States, IMO says.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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