Standardized codes to facilitate digitization of terminal operations

A new database is being launched which provides, a clean, consistent, machine-readable standardized container facility identification of over 11,000 facilities in 160 countries. While it might seem like intuitive elements of a global shipping network, the Bureau International des Containers (BIC) and the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) are pointing to it as another example of how shipping needs to catch-up to other industries to facilitate the digitization of operations.

The two organizations collaborated along with ocean carriers and other organizations to standardize the codes used to identify facilities such as depots, container yards, M&R vendors, and other supply chain container facilities. Each facility in the database now has a structured address, GPS coordinates, and a 9-character BIC Facility Code assigned to it that can be easily consumed by existing IT systems to facilitate adoption.

With the standardization of the BIC Facility Code and the API, the container transportation industry is one step closer to its goals for standardization and digitalization explained Thomas Bagge, CEO DCSA. “This is a good example of the foundational work required to make digital transformation a reality in container shipping, and we are pleased to be a part of this important collaboration with BIC.”

Machine learning techniques were used to sanitize and align nearly 30,000 facility codes from 10 major carriers and lessors, to meet the industry’s calls for harmonized facility names, addresses, GPS coordinates, and standardized codes. Adoption of the harmonized codes is expected to result in smoother communication between parties, quicker identification of facilities by third parties such as motor carriers and telematics providers, more efficient lessor-leasee communications related to on/off-hires, and better visibility for BCOs.

“Over the last few years, our industry’s data silo mentality has rapidly given way to a new appreciation of standardization and the efficient sharing of data. This new focus has allowed us to conduct a global facility code harmonization we have long wished to complete, thanks in large part to the DCSA’s assistance in actively engaging the major carriers. Moreover, the participants are eager to embrace the API, which will ensure the harmonized codes are widely available and in sync going forward. We see this as an important enabler for digitalization efforts underway in the industry,” said Douglas Owen, Secretary General of the BIC.

The API, currently available on SwaggerHub, will enable supply chain participants to ensure their systems are utilizing a unique, standardized code for every container facility. Those wishing to host their version can subscribe to automatic synchronous updates to ensure they are always up to date. Also, the API serves both the BIC Facility Code and the SMDG Ocean Terminal code lists, meaning the industry can access a one-stop API for the 11,000+ BIC Facility Codes and 900+ SMDG Ocean Terminal Codes.

There are also plans to add additional features including geo-features (geo-fencing coordinates). According to the organizations, this will make the database even more valuable for operators of smart containers or assets looking to automatically confirm the facility in which a container is located, or to enable location-based automation.