IMO’s new rule on electronic information exchange between ships and ports comes into force

      04/09/2019

A new global rule mandated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports took effect from Monday.

The rule seeks to make cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient, for the more than 10 billion tonnes of goods which are traded by sea annually across the globe.

The requirement, mandatory under IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), is part of a package of amendments under the revised Annex to the FAL Convention, adopted in 2016.

“The new FAL Convention requirement for all public authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information related to maritime transport marks a significant move in the maritime industry and ports towards a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport,” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, said in a statement.

The Facilitation Convention encourages use of a “single window” for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication.

The FAL Convention, which has 121 contracting governments, contains standards and recommended practices and rules for simplifying formalities, documentary requirements and procedures on ships’ arrival, stay and departure.

The Facilitation Convention (Standard 2.1) lists the documents which public authorities can demand of a ship and recommends the maximum information and number of copies which should be required. IMO has developed standardised forms for documents such as the IMO General Declaration, Cargo Declaration, Ship's Stores Declaration, Crew's Effects Declaration, Crew List, Passenger List and Dangerous Goods.

Five other documents are required, on security, on wastes from ships, on advance electronic cargo information for customs risk assessment purposes, and two additional ones under the Universal Postal Convention and the International Health Regulations.

Under the requirement for electronic data exchange, all national authorities should now have provision for electronic exchange of this information.

India launched a Port Community System — ‘PCS1x’— at ports in December 2018. ‘PCS 1x’ is a cloud-based technology developed by Mumbai-based logistics conglomerate JM Baxi Group.

PCS1x offers value-added services such as notification engine, workflow, mobile application, track and trace, better user interface, better security features, improved inclusion by offering dashboard for those with no IT capability. A unique feature of ‘PCS1x’ is that it can latch on to third party software which provides services to the maritime industry thereby enabling the stakeholders to access wide network of services. The system enables single sign on facility to provide one stop interface to all the functionalities across all stakeholders. It also deploys a payment aggregator solution which removes dependency on bank specific payment eco system.

The system will enable trade to have an improved communication with the customs as they have also embarked on an Application Programming Interface (API) based architecture, thereby enabling real time interaction.

PCS1x offers a database that acts as a single data point to all transactions. It captures and stores data on its first occurrence thereby reducing manual intervention, the need to enter transaction data at various points and thereby reducing errors in the process.

“It is estimated that this feature alone will reduce transaction time by as much as two days. The application will have a cascading effect in reducing dwell time and overall cost of transaction. The platform has the potential to revolutionise maritime trade in India and bring it on par with global best practices and pave the way to improve the Ease of Doing Business world ranking and Logistics Performance Index (LPI) rank,” a Shipping Ministry official said.