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Mandatory Maritime Single Window: One year to go

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LONDON : IMO hosted “Maritime Single Window 2024 – A window of opportunities”, a two-day Symposium to discuss how Member States can implement MSWs before the January 2024 deadline.

A window of opportunities  

From 1 January 2024 it will be compulsory for ports around the world to operate Maritime Single Windows (MSWs) for the electronic exchange of information required on ships’ arrival at a port, their stay and their departure. This mandatory change follows the adoption by IMO’s Facilitation Committee of amendments to the FAL Convention.   

With this key date in mind, IMO hosted “Maritime Single Window 2024 – A window of opportunities”, a two-day Symposium (18-19 January 2023) jointly organized by IMO, IAPH and BIMCO, with the support of the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA).  

A host of experts from across the shipping and ports sectors explored how MSWs fit with national digitalization strategies, the best approach to designing and implementing MSWs to suit Member States’ maritime trade facilitation objectives and objectives to achieve the greening of shipping.  

Also discussed were the concept of interoperability and understanding how to apply industry standards to harmonize electronic data exchanges, as well as port call data requirements, and the development of strategic partnerships. 

Opening the Symposium at IMO’s London headquarters, IMO Secretary General, Mr Kitack Lim, said that making MSWs mandatory from 1 January 2024 was not only “a significant step towards accelerating digitalization in the maritime trade”, but also “an opportunity for all stakeholders in shipping, and a necessary step forward”.  

Mr Lim said, too, that taking this step would accelerate the digitalization and decarbonization aspirations of international shipping. He praised progress made in recent years by the shipping and port industries and pledged IMO’s support to Member States in finding tangible solutions to the forthcoming new obligations under the FAL Convention.   

In his opening remarks IAPH’s President, Subramaniam Karuppiah, warned that COVID-19 pandemic emphasised that the maritime industry is seriously lagging behind in its move to digitalization. Nikolaus Schües, President Designate of BIMCO, sounded an optimistic note, describing MSW as “an opportunity to be exploited and one we cannot afford to miss”.

Shrinking the digital divide through partnership 

A key panel discussion centred on the support that IMO Member States can access to assist them in their MSW implementation journey.  

Periklis Saragiotis from the World Bank and Kate Munn, a consultant, have been working together with Fiji on their MSW project. They backed the approach of “upstream analysis” to assess implementation readiness before making any adaptations or simplifications to systems, thereby avoiding digitizing inefficient procedures.  

Fiji is a good example, said Mr Saragiotis, of the World Bank and IMO cooperating with a Member State. “If we work together and coordinate and try to send a message to the client and government that we’re here to help…that’s a very powerful message.” 

Antigua and Barbuda has received technical expertise in-kind support for their MSW implementation from Norway. They settled on a system developed specifically with small island developing states (SIDS) in mind that can be modified and adopted as required. Wayne Mykoo, representing the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services and Merchant Shipping said the project underscored IMO’s ability to support Members to meet their obligations.  

Another IMO initiative is that of the Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project. Under its auspices, Singapore is implementing a pilot project with Angola to establish a maritime single window platform developed for medium ports based on the system implemented successfully in Antigua and Barbuda.  

Gavin Yeo from Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority summarized where they’ve got to: The project is currently developing prototypes for the Angola team on which they will provide feedback so that improvements can be made during the build process.  

IMO’s e-learning courses offer another form of support. Delegates heard about a one-day modular course that is being constructed to help disseminate knowledge around the benefits of good implementation of a Maritime Single Window. It will be of particular use to developing countries, ports and agencies planning to implement their own MSW, said Jarle Hauge of the Norwegian Coastal Administration, who is putting together the resource. 

Summing up IMO’s broader perspective on where shipping is with its move towards digitalization, Jose Matheickal, Chief of IMO’s Department of Partnerships and Projects (DPP) believes the digital transition is gathering pace in the developed world but developing countries are still to catch up. “Things are not happening the same in the global south as the global north”, he said. He emphasised that the economic and regulatory drivers – in the form of FAL – are in place, and reminded delegates of the contribution to decarbonization that MSWs will bring.  

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