Everyone has standards – the conflict comes when our standards don’t match up with each other, or when one party is convinced that ‘their’ standard is better than anyone else’s!
And so it is in the world of digital data exchange in ports, trade and logistics. Digitalisation has taken on a new urgency in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s wrong to assume that any kind of digitalisation is the answer to everything.
What we also need is harmony! From dangerous goods notification to berth service request messaging, it is the use of standardised, harmonised electronic information exchange that underpins efficient port operations. In short, we need to be confident that a specific message can only mean one thing – not several variations on a theme. We need to know that if we both say the same thing, we both mean the same thing. If everyone chooses a different definition or starts to stray from the original standard, how quickly it’s possible to descend into digital misunderstanding!
Last week’s cross-industry ‘Call to Action’, co-signed by IPCSA, called for action to accelerate the pace of digitalisation to cope in the post Covid-19 ‘new normal’. Equally important, it called for the harmonisation of data standards and standardisation in the use of new and emerging digital technologies.
In fact, the maritime world has been developing, refining and using international standards for many years. Early in 2019, the IMO’s FAL Committee approved a revised and updated Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, to support harmonisation and standardisation of electronic messages, based on the need to define all the elements of the electronic FAL forms across WCO, UN/CEFACT and ISO standard models.
IPCSA was one of the members of the working group which developed the Compendium and will also be an active member of the IMO Expert Group on Data Harmonisation (EGDH), which is working on the further development of the Compendium towards the goal of real harmonisation. The Compendium will be used as the basis for automated and digital systems for the exchange of information when ships arrive at and depart from ports.
Another party playing a key role in all of this is PROTECT, the standards specialist group which was integrated into IPCSA at the beginning of this year. Together, PROTECT and IPCSA are working to combine their knowledge and experience on the development and use of global, standardised electronic messaging.
PROTECT was originally set up in 1992 by major European ports to harmonise and optimise electronic information exchange by means of standardised messages legally required in ports, subsequently expanding with support from Port Community Systems and other new members, and earning recognition by the FAL Committee and the shipping industry as a Message Design Group derived from UN/CEFACT activities.
IPCSA Last Word
Through PROTECT’s integration into IPCSA, new and closer links are being forced across the wider industry. The chairman of PROTECT is Jérôme Besancenot, information systems manager at the Port of Le Havre – which has just become a new member of IPCSA.
Located on the Seine estuary, Le Havre is France’s number one port. With the ports of Rouen and Paris it is also part of HAROPA, which is one of Northern Europe’s top five port complexes. HAROPA is positioning itself as the first ‘smart corridor’ and the
Port of Le Havre has secured investment for its innovative Smart Port City Project in partnership with ‘Le Havre Seine Metropole’ Urban Community to develop digital solutions for increased efficiency and environmental performance
Le Havre port already had a close link with IPCSA through its shareholding in SOGET, which was a founding member of the association in 2011. All of these links and close partnerships are helping to drive forward ports and the wider logistics industry on the road to digitalisation – and harmonisation!