Maritime Digitalisation: the foundation for tomorrow’s Port Calls

Digitalisation is no longer an interesting aspect in the maritime transport sector. It has become a necessary step towards sustaining any business plans in shipping, write Michael Bergmann, Michael Schröder, Robert Ward, and Trond Andersen.

Lately, a lot of attention has been paid to the role of digitalisation in empowering maritime operations to become a part of the maritime supply chain, with developments such as connected ports, smart ports and connected hinterland operations, for example. Each is using digitalisation to better meet the expectations of their clients – the cargo owner and the transport buyer. It is probably correct to say that all business operations today are dependent on digitalisation in one way or another.

As more and more actors are embracing digitalisation and the use of sensor technology in their operations, efficiency gains are being experienced, which has, in turn, increased the need for every actor to adopt it in their operations. One example of how to do this is in the effort brought forward by Port Collaborative Decision Making (PortCDM), in which actors utilise instant data sharing to pursue the coordination of activities associated with their port operations.

With the extended use of digital data, it becomes clear that a single data set does not provide the necessary information to gain the benefit of digitalisation in full. The use of digital data from different sources has already been highlighted by the test beds and current implementations of PortCDM.

Proprietary data sets are to be avoided

International standardisation of message formats is needed. Proprietary data sets are to be avoided. Given the international and diverse community in the maritime domain proprietary solutions are not realistic nor desirable, as already noted by the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA). The recent development of standards, like S-211 for port call messaging and S-421 for route exchange, are results of this development and work in concert with the logistics chain GS1 EPCIS standard.

Combining streams of S-211 data and the newly launched track and trace standard by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) also makes it possible to forecast the expected arrivals of goods in the maritime transport chain to a larger degree than is done today. “(DCSA) has just started an initiative to achieve significant emission reduction thru advanced berth arrival and departure planning at scale. This initiative is based on the findings from PCO and PortCDM and following the IMO Just In Time Arrival Guide,” says Henning Schleyerbach, COO, DCSA.

In this context the ECDIS Test standard IEC 61174:2015 (ed 4) established a standardised Route exchange format. As the existing standards did not address all requirements, a Port Call Message Format (PCMF) was developed and tested within the PortCDM testbeds during the STM Validation project. Now IEC has followed the IMO guidance by using the IMO Common Maritime Data Structure (CMDS) and migrated the route exchange into a new standard IEC 63273 S-421 Route Plan Based on S-100 (S-421), compatible with S-211.

For the Port Call Message Format, the International Port CDM Council (IPCDMC), initiated during the STM Validation Project and now operating as an independent organisation, has also migrated the PCMF into an IMO CMDS compliant standard, S-211, which has been endorsed by IALA and is registered within the IHO GI Registry, the basis of the IMO CMDS. S-421 has a specific focus on the voyage information and S-211 on the Port Call, with both having been promoted by IMO in the definition of the IMO Maritime Service 4, MS 4 – Port Support Service.

The scope of S-211 is that it is, nothing less and nothing more than, a format for port call messages allowing standardised sharing of data on intentions and outcomes of movements, services, and administrative events related to a given port call.

Wider partnerships

The International PortCDM Council serves two purposes: providing necessary technical support for PortCDM and overseeing the further development of PortCDM. The Council, with its global reach, aims to maintain the necessary overarching guidelines, processes and procedures to make PortCDM a successful international concept to improve maritime transport as it relates to port operations and ports’ interaction with ships.

The group has developed and maintains the global guidelines for PortCDM implementation, including operational rules and compliancy criteria, and the concept of seven maturity levels to guide PortCDM implementation.

The IPCDMC Technical Working Group (TWG) also maintains S-211 as needed. Any relevant organisation is invited to join the TWG and contribute to the further development and enhancement of this important standard.

The main interest of the IPCDMC is to secure support for the realisation of PortCDM globally, by providing foundations for regional and local adaptations and implementation. In addition to IPCDMC there are several standardisation bodies working collaboratively on standardised data exchange and sharing along the transport chain.

IMO/MSC has provided ‘component’ standards to support its common maritime data structure (CMDS) framework. In has introduced an IMO Reference Data Model as part of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business. It is drawing upon already defined terms where these are maintained by relevant standardisation bodies (such as UN/CEFACT, WCO, WTO, IHO, IALA). S-211 builds upon the definitions brought forward by these harmonised definitions.

A new partnership between IMO, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Organization for Standardization has been signed to support increased maritime digitalisation.

The partnership agreement paves the way for updating the IMO Reference Data Model and for its further development towards harmonisation of data standards in other areas, beyond the FAL Convention, such as exchanging operational data that could help facilitate just-in-time operation of ships.

Various publications have attracted a high readership and shown support for the development and implementation of PortCDM and the use of S-211. This includes organisations such as UNCTAD.

Given the nature of maritime transport and the above mentioned initiatives, this is a call to join the IPCDMC and to contribute to unbiased collaborative action. The S-211 standard covers the whole maritime sector, not a specific port, not a specific shipping company. It is a collaboration to improve maritime transport.

Editor’s note: This article is an abridged version of a longer paper by the authors, including further details and a full list of references, which can be downloaded here.

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About the Authors

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Michael Bergmann is the owner of maritime consultancy company BM Bergmann-Marine. He holds various positions, including observer, participant and advisor at the IMO, IALA and IHO, director at CIRM, and initiator and secretary of the International PortCDM Council

Michael Schröder is Project Manager eSolutions at Hapag-Lloyd, and has been active in various standardisation organizations throughout his career, such as the SMDG, UN/CEFACT, DCSA and BIC. He is also responsible for development of the VERMAS message for VGM reporting.

Robert Ward was the Secretary-General of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) until his retirement in late 2017. Prior to that he was the Deputy Hydrographer of Australia.

Trond Andersen is Marine Advisor at NOFO - The Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies. He previously worked at the Norwegian Mapping Authority and is a former harbour master at Port of Stavanger.

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