Digitalization, big data, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence are key in enabling the post-COVID recovery, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim told a webinar on Digital Connectivity and Data Standards.

Lim added that the pandemic has affected us all, both socially and economically, and has had an unprecedented impact on shipping business and seafarers.

The pandemic has shown that shipping, the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation that carries more than 80 per cent of global trade, remains the leading facilitator of global trade. Therefore, shipping and maritime will be at the heart of the economic recovery, both at sea and ashore, Lim added.

“In this respect shipping and seafarers need to be fully supported so they can fulfil their responsibilities.”

“Cooperation between shipping, ports and logistics will be vital for enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of shipping and therefore facilitating trade and fostering economic recovery and prosperity,” Mr. Lim said. He highlighted IMO’s key role in ensuring shipping can embrace the digital revolution – while ensuring safety, environmental protection as well as cyber security.

“Digitalization and new technologies will also be the key to allowing standardization and therefore enhancing the efficiency of shipping,” Lim said. 

“Knowing the many challenges awaiting shipping and international trade, IMO is working to ensure the adoption of technologies that increase the connectivity and efficiency of working practices in maritime transport and ship management – be it in marine communications or the exchange of information in the ship-to-ship as well as the ship-to-shore interfaces, including through the so‑called “single window” concept.

The need for standardization was also highlighted by IMO’s Facilitation Head, Julian Abril, who noted the mandatory requirement for electronic data exchange in the Facilitation Convention, effective since April 2019.

Discussions are currently underway towards making a single maritime window mandatory – so that all data for arrival and departure of ships is submitted through a single point and transmitted to the relevant agencies involved. 

The standardization and harmonization needed for this to happen are captured in the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, a tool for software developers that harmonises the data elements required for regulatory purposes during a port call and standardises electronic messages, reducing the administrative burden for ships linked to formalities in ports.

The goal is to make it easier for companies involved in maritime trade or transport to create software that can communicate, no matter which standard they are based on.

Cooperation, communication and collaboration between the various stakeholders to maintain and further develop the compendium, as well as looking into expanding its data set and data model to areas beyond the FAL Convention, has been formalised in a partnership agreement signed in March 2020 between IMO, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Organization for Standardization. 

The webinar on Digital Connectivity and Data Standards was organized by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

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