Governments worldwide need to invest in digitalisation and ship-port connectivity to prevent the long-term impact of the global coronavirus pandemic
As an industry, maritime, shipping and ports must implement electronic communications and data exchange between ships and ports to minimise face-to-face interaction on ships and in harbours for document exchange. It will also enable better organisation and mobilisation of marine services in ports.
IMO is encouraging the industry to adopt digitalisation technology and is standardising electronic data exchange through its Facilitation (FAL) Convention and working groups.
However, only 49 of the 174 member states of IMO have introduced functioning port community systems, with the rest still relying on personal interaction and paper-based transactions for shipboard, ship-port interface and port-hinterland based exchanges. This puts many thousands of people at risk from contracting Covid-19, which would be avoided with electronic data exchange.
To reduce this risk, port and shipping industry associations have together urgently called for action to accelerate the pace of digitalisation.
International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) initiated a call to action document, which was co-signed by several industry associations and organisations, including the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA).
Within the Accelerating Digitalisation of Maritime Trade and Logistics: A Call to Action document, signatories pointed out how the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the diverse landscape that currently exists across ports worldwide.
“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.”
IPCSA chairman Hans Rook, who was also one of the initiators of developing a port community system for Rotterdam in the early 2000s, was disappointed at the slow progress made by other ports worldwide in adopting digitalisation and electronic data exchange.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has proved the value of port community systems and single windows (for data exchange) and this call to action is a milestone in having the whole industry supporting IMO member states and port authorities to work together, collaborate and develop these critical systems.”
In the call to action, the co-signees include the following priorities:
The policy document, which has also been developed with members of the roundtable of international port organisations and experts from the World Ports Sustainability Program Covid-19 Taskforce, will now be submitted to the IMO Secretariat in London as a proposal for further dissemination.
These measures will improve efficiency of port operations, especially in mobilising marine services, such as tug and line handling requirements, when ships are ready to enter harbours and terminals.
Accelerating Digitalisation of Maritime Trade and Logistics: A Call to Action was initiated by the International Association of Ports and Harbors, then co-signed by BIMCO, the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents, the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association, the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Harbor Masters Association, the International Maritime Pilots Association, the International Port Community Systems Association, the International Ship Suppliers and Services Association and the PROTECT Group.
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