DCSA chief executive Thomas Bagge opens up on new initiatives and the factors pushing digitalisation forward
The impact of the pandemic and changes in regulation are helping to progress digitalisation within the container shipping industry.
Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) chief executive Thomas Bagge tells CST, “The pandemic has almost been a blessing in disguise for the digitalisation of our industry. The visibility of cargo has been challenged in the pandemic, as evidenced in the congestion in US west coast ports and the disruption to the normal flow of empty containers coming back to China. There’s been a big disruption in flows and assets, and this has caused challenges for visibility - where the container is, whether it has moved on, and what condition the cargo is in.”
This has created a greater desire by customers of the container shipping industry to have more transparency and visibility within the supply chain.
He singles out DCSA’s track and trace (T&T) standards as a key step to improving cargo visibility. Mr Bagge comments, “By implementing a DCSA standards-based T&T API, shippers can receive real-time communication regarding the whereabouts of their containers from all carriers that have implemented the standards. Using one API with all carriers instead of multiple EDIs per carrier is much more efficient and easier to maintain.” In April this year, the DCSA announced these standards have been adopted by five of its member carriers.
Standards’ snowball affect
Mr Bagge says, “It is a start. I don’t think it has made a big impact yet but has great potential. As shippers begin to adopt the standards, we will all start slowly speaking the same language and using the same vocabulary. It is about gaining momentum, and as we engage with more shippers it will have a snowball effect.”
In addition to cargo visibility, Mr Bagge says, the pandemic has highlighted the need for digitalising documentation. DCSA has advanced its work on standardising electronic documentation, starting with standards for the bill of lading in December 2020. Furthermore, in June 2021, DCSA released the interface standards for submitting shipping instructions and B/L issuance, including API definitions. This will allow shippers to process a standardised electronic bill of lading from all carriers that have implemented the standards.
Highlighting the importance of regulation, Mr Bagge says, “There were many things before the pandemic they were quite difficult to advance such as the electronic bill of lading, but regulators are starting to put into law that electronic documents are accepted on an equal footing to physical documents. That has been a major contributor to advancing digitalisation and moving from where we are today.”
The DCSA’s ambition is to remove all paper from the container shipping trade. “That is some years away, as we still have regulation where we are required to present an import permit that is physical. But little by little, we aim to remove these pieces of paper to increase efficiency and reduce waste in container shipping,” says Mr Bagge.
Another trend to emerge is that of the smart container. Highlighting the benefits, Mr Bagge says, “Less money will be spent on empty positioning because you will already know exactly where the container is. Business models are starting to emerge where an empty container can be positioned to a customer. This drives sustainability, lower costs and turns around the assets quicker.”
Digitalisation has moved forward since the DCSA first launched in 2019, and one of the major changes Mr Bagge has seen in the industry is a “change in mindset”.
He expands, “We see an amazing willingness to collaborate, to pilot with us, to create joint business cases.”
Riviera Maritime Media will provide free technical and operational webinars in 2021. Sign up to attend on our events page