The International Maritime Organization and the Government of Singapore are seeking expressions of interest from countries with a “medium sized port” for a pilot project to establish a system of electronic data exchange.
“The “Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project” will develop a system in a pilot port to allow electronic submission, through one single portal, of all information required by various Government agencies when a ship calls at a port. This concept is known as the Maritime Single Window (MSW) system”, the IMO states.
Such systems can potentially greatly reduce the burdens of cost, effort and error in administration. The electronic exchange of information for clearance processes became mandatory from 09 April 2019 under the IMO’s Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic.
The objectives of the new SWIFT pilot project are to:
- support the digitalization of ship clearance in ports to meet the mandatory requirements of the FAL Convention through a maritime single window system;
- build human, organizational and technological capacity to allow public authorities and trade to benefit from the maritime single window system;
- promote further collaboration and information sharing between maritime transport stakeholders to capture the benefits of the maritime single window system; and
- support the efficiency and resilience of maritime transport and ports in recipient countries.
The deadline for countries to register an interest is 30 April 2021. An evaluation process will begin thereafter and an interim discussion will begin on 15 May 2021. By 30 May 201 the selected pilot country will be asked to confirm its support for the project. Further details, deadlines and forms related the project can be downloaded here.
Single windows in effect now
The SWIFT project builds on Singapore’s “[email protected]” which is a one-stop port clearance portal for ships calling at Singapore. The portal streamlined up to 16 regulatory applications, containing 30 common data items, that were previously submitted via three separate portals to three separate government agencies – maritime, immigration and environment. Under the new system, the agencies receive homogenous data, which facilitates the rapid clearance of vessels. Future plans include the development of central bookings of services and inter-operability allowing access to shared information with other ports.
The SWIFT pilot project will also draw on open-source codes from Norway’s experience in setting up a single window system for Antigua and Barbuda. “The source code developed for this system by Norway is available free of charge to other interested Member States,” the IMO notes. In the new IMO-Singapore pilot project, the system will be extended to include electronic data exchange capabilities enabling connectivity and interoperability with other maritime single windows and digital platforms. It will also facilitate the implementation of key cybersecurity requirements such as confidentiality and the availability of information.
Norway first began to set up its own single window system, “SafeSeaNet” back in 2004 and kept it under development since. According to the Norwegian Coastal Administration, “Kystverket”, the system has reduced the risk of misunderstandings between a wide variety of parties in the supply chain. In 2014, the system electronically exchanged 245,000 messages between the authorities from 3,913 ships on 117,967 voyage. “This meant a huge reduction of manual labour onboard and ashore dealing with paper,” the Kystverket reports. The full presentation can be downloaded here.
Australian governments, regulators and seaports must up their game
Commenting on the development, Shipping Australia’s CEO and former master mariner, Melwyn Noronha, said:
“Shipping Australia fully supports the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) recent call for expressions of interest from countries to take part in a pilot project to establish an efficient digitalised system for electronic exchange of information in ports.
“Ships operate internationally and are required to submit large amounts of data and documents to ports and government authorities to satisfy regulatory requirements. Often this information is required by several different authorities each with their own system and format. For instance, when I was in command of bulk carriers, I used to print out over 50 copies of various sets of data so I could give a copies to government officials and other inspectors who demanded it in every port of call. And that’s just a tiny example of the administrative burden. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that much has changed since then.
“Digitalization is transforming shipping companies’ operations. Compatible port and government systems will enable access to information relating to a ship, especially that information which doesn’t change such as the physical dimensions of a ship. In addition, for ship information that does change frequently, for instance, crew, passenger, cargo, stores and dangerous goods’ manifest, utilisation of IMO developed Standardized Forms will enable access to this information by port-based systems, once established.
“Such a system would help achieve consistency and standardisation of information that would avoid the costs, burden and delay duplication and administrative error.
“As ocean shipping is so vital to Australia’s interests – about 99.92% by volume and 84% by value of all of Australia’s freight is transported by sea – Australia’s governments, regulators and seaports must do better and must make progress in establishing an efficient digitalised system to allow electronic exchange of information for ships calling in Australia. “