Mr Simha believes that current maritime industry initiatives, like support for ‘just in time’ (JIT) arrival planning from the IMO (International Maritime Organization), can help to improve port operations and allow ports to plan their own workflows more efficiently based on information shared by shipping companies, if the companies involved commit to the concept.
“The shipping industry is interconnected. Like a relay race, we pass the baton from one to another as we move cargo across the world. However, we’re only as strong as the weakest link. For example, there’s little point cutting transit time at sea, if a vessel ends up stuck at port. The standards we use define how we pass the baton to each other. The better the standards, the smoother the transitions. This is where the JIT port call standards come into play,” he continues.
“From a sustainability perspective too, ships can be more efficient and pollute less if the port call process is better integrated, so we all have something to gain. The question is, how can we agree on how we’re going to do these things?”
“Widespread adoption of these standards is the first step towards achieving a digital, global, transparent, JIT port call ecosystem. As we speak, DCSA and MSC are talking to ports and terminals to try out how standards will work in their environments, learn what needs to be improved and measure benefits. It’s all very encouraging and quite promising in this respect.”
In addition to improving ship-port information sharing, Dr Zuesongdham would like to see a greater level of data exchange between the ports themselves, a process that Hamburg has been pushing to accelerate with the creation of the chainPORT initiative in 2016, a network of port authorities and operators from Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Singapore, Shenzhen and others that are committed to this common goal.
“We know we need more collaboration, and we firstly have to break the ice to collaborate, create that mindset change. Now we are moving forward to trusting each other and want to create a community that is a trusted environment for all of us,” she said.
“Then we can also talk with groups like DCSA about how we could all cooperate better, in terms of vessel operating schedules and exchanging data more efficiently and with more quality. At the end of the day, we don’t want to double any work on this, if there is a standard then we want to work with that. If it’s accepted by the stakeholders involved, then it can be adopted.”
“Some people may want to wait until it has a stamp from the ISO, but that takes time. If we can talk together and trust each other we can try to move forward, create a de facto standard as we work alongside those standardisation bodies. We want to work with agreed standards that are practical, not something that works theoretically but actually works in practice and provides values to those actors that are participating in the transport chain.”
Regulation vs Market Forces
Regulation is one way to ‘strongly encourage’ supply chain stakeholders to share their digital data, and various requirements have been introduced over time by bodies like the IMO, or local port and customs authorities, that leave maritime companies with no option but to make requested data available in a digital format for environmental, safety and security reasons.
Is the stick potentially more impactful than the carrot in building momentum towards data sharing and improved collaboration in the maritime sector? While our group agrees that regulation has an important role to play in harmonising digital approaches, they believe that private companies will need to take the initiative themselves to make progress at the kind of pace that is required to stay in touch with ongoing changes in technology.
“I think if we only wait for the regulators to move, we will not really make as much progress as we’d like, business moves much faster than the regulator can,” said Dr Zuesongdham.
“I think what we could do from the business side, if we agree that we want to pursue this as a win-win situation, we can start creating a collaborative environment together and feed back what we do to the regulators. We can show them how they can set up regulation that is also business friendly.”
“For issues like safety, security and compliance then regulation is very important, but it should not prevent the industry from creating valuable business practices.”
Dr Lind suggests that we need to ensure that the requirements of regulators are integrated with any private initiatives and bring them together within information sharing communities, linking the different datasets to prevent the creation of disconnected operational silos in the industry.
“On the regulatory side, there are certain sets of data that will be required, for a Single Window and other things like that, that would not necessarily be the same pieces of data that are required for the business side. So, we need to connect the two sides, the regulatory data sharing community, which can still benefit the different actors involved, and the more voluntary business side of it,” he said.
“That will raise the quality of the data that is being shared and will offer new capabilities for utilising multiple sets of data in combination. I don’t believe that there is one single data source that can be enough.”
“Think about the dream scenario when you are combining a mandatory information source like AIS data, for example, with a number of other types of data made available when companies are cooperating, like vessel schedules. Then you can create fantastic intelligence in your decision making.” >>>continued on page 4