A group of ten maritime stakeholder groups has jointly issued a ‘call to action’ demanding the widespread adoption of secure electronic data exchange technologies across the industry, in an effort to support the development of a supply chain with the flexibility to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of post-COVID-19 operations.
The document was initiated by the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), and co-signed by BIMCO, FONASBA, ICHCA, ICS, IHMA , IMPA, IPCSA, ISSA and the PROTECT Group.*
“The COVID-19 crisis has painfully demonstrated the heterogeneous landscape that currently exists across ports worldwide,” the group says.
“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 larger reliance on personal interaction and paper-based transactions as the norms for shipboard, ship-port interface and port-hinterland based exchanges.”
“As an illustration, only 49 of the 174 Member States of the International Maritime Organization have functioning Port Community Systems to date, systems which are considered the cornerstone of any port in the current digitalised business landscape.”
The group believes that the additional attention given to supply chain resilience and the need to adapt to new ways of working following the pandemic offer a new opportunity to drive collaboration and accelerate the pace of digitalisation, so that port communities across the world can consistently offer a minimum level of electronic commerce and data exchange services in the future.
Among the group’s listed priorities are the need for harmonisation of data standards to facilitate sharing of port and berth-related master data, and the promotion of best practices and standardisation on how port communities can apply emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, analytics, internet of things, digital twins, autonomous systems and blockchain.
The partners also wish to see a framework and roadmap developed to facilitate the implementation of digital port platforms, where authorised users can share data and connect with hinterland supply chains, and hope to see a coalition of willing stakeholders created to improve transparency of the supply chain through collaboration and standardisation, starting with the introduction of the electronic bill of lading.
“Working on these priorities requires collaboration between maritime supply chain industry stakeholders and government,” the group says.
“Above all, it calls for inter-governmental collaboration as the acceleration of digitalisation will require change management at local, regional, and national levels. 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.”
*The Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA), the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Harbor Masters Association (IHMA) , the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA), the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA), the International Ship Suppliers and Services Association (ISSA).