he International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has issued a call for expressions of interest from countries with a medium-sized port to take part in a pilot project to establish an efficient digitalised system for electronic exchange of information in ports for ship clearance.
This comes when Kenya is a head of the pack with KenTrade piloting the implementation of Maritime Single Window System it has developed jointly with the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to process documents issued by the shipping lines at Mombasa port.
In a statement, the IMO said the ‘Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project’ will develop a system in a pilot port to allow electronic submission, through one portal, of all information required by various government agencies when a ship calls at a port.
The SWiFT project will be implemented by IMO in partnership with Singapore, the body said.
Regulations in IMO’s Facilitation Convention require an electronic exchange of data, to ensure the efficient clearance of ships and the single window concept is recommended, to avoid duplication of effort.
In Kenya, piloting started in November last year with six shipping lines in a move that is expected to significantly improve ships clearing and turnaround at the port of Mombasa.
Implementation of the Maritime Single Window system is an International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirement meant to facilitate ship clearance procedures by providing a single online portal for the declaration of information on the arrival, stay and departure of ships between the shipping line/agent and the approving government agencies involved. IMO has already listed seven mandatory automated forms for pre-arrival clearance by various government agencies.
Kenya started implementing this requirement in April 2018. IMO requires national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports, which came into effect from 8 April 2019.
This is aimed at making cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain efficient for over 10 billion tons of goods that are traded by sea annually across the globe. It will improve ship’s sea to shore handling, enhance ship turnaround time and compliance.
The requirement, under International Maritime Convention’s (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.
“We have completed the user testing pushing piloting process at the tail end. The response has been very positive and we do not expect many challenges once the system is fully running,” Chief Executive Officer Mr Amos Wangora recently said.
Individual data elements should only be submitted once, electronically, through a single point of entry, to the relevant regulatory agencies and other parties.
According to the IMO, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the value of digitalisation and electronic exchange of required data to be speedier, more reliable, efficient and COVID-secure than manual processes.
Under the IMO pilot project, the selected country will be advised on the legal, policy and institutional requirements for the MSW system. The port will then be provided with functional MSW software, hardware and/or IT services, configured to the country’s needs.
The pilot will be supported by Singapore via in-kind contributions and by IMO via the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP).
Kitack Lim, IMO’s Secretary-General, said, “Increased digitalisation supports greater efficiency which benefits the ship, the port and wider supply chain.
“We want to support countries in implementing the FAL Convention requirements for electronic data exchange, by supporting a pilot project which will show the way and result in know-how which can then be shared with others.”
Following the initial pilot and subject to funding availability, the aim is to replicate the pilot project in other IMO Member States in need of similar technical help, the IMO said.
Julian Abril, Head of IMO’s Facilitation Section, “Following implementation in the pilot port, the IMO-Singapore project endeavours to springboard countries in their digitalisation journey and unlock the full potential of their maritime sectors.”
“It is only when most, if not all, ports undergo digital transformation, that the full benefits of digitalization can be realized by the maritime community.”
“With support from IMO’s Department of Partnership and Projects, we envisage an increasing number of discussions with external partners and resource.