Container shipping needs common standards not only to prevent siloing of digital initiatives but to foster transparency within the sector, says Rebecca Moore
MSC, Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express have officially established the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) to drive “standardisation, digitalisation and interoperability in container shipping”.
This association is crucial for digitalisation to gain pace and achieve concrete results in container shipping. Digital projects and platforms are fast being developed for the industry, but there are no common standards to link these platforms and provide a common, shared foundation. As SeaIntelligence Consulting partner Lars Jensen pointed out, a lack of standards leads to an “unconnected patchwork of solutions benefiting neither the carriers nor the shippers”.
This is where DCSA will step in. It aims to create common information technology standards for technical interfaces and data, which will be openly available and free of charge for all stakeholders of the wider container shipping industry.
Common standards are needed to truly see digitalisation become a force within the container shipping industry, not only preventing digital initiatives from being insular but allowing processes to be streamlined, red tape to be cut and transparency boosted.
DCSA said it is in discussions with multiple other container shipping lines around the globe who are interested in joining. The more container shipping lines that join, the greater the opportunity to extend and enhance standardisation and ensure individual platforms and initiatives are linked up and share common IT standards.
As well as providing a framework for current container shipping digital platforms, DCSA’s standards will make it easier for digital platforms to be established, with standardised interfaces and data making the path to providing a platform easier.
It will encourage container shipping lines to look at how digital initiatives can enhance their businesses and sign up to new platforms. A common standards framework would provide reassurance about applying new technology.
Finally, this association means business. It is not just talk. Having only been announced in November last year, just six months later it has passed all regulatory requirements and become officially established. The fact it involves industry heavyweights – all four carriers are among the largest 10 carriers globally – and is headed up by Maersk’s Thomas Bagge is going to make the box ship sector sit up and take notice.
The building blocks – consisting of both digital platforms and the non-profit, neutral DCSA – are now in place for container shipping lines to embrace the digital initiatives being launched in this sector and get the very most out of what digitalisation can offer.