Ships in port with wireless communication overlay concept

IMO approves strengthening port call data exchange

Published: 23 May 2022

Standardising and harmonising electronic ship to shore communication by integrating administrative, nautical and operational data, will strengthen port calls in general and support maritime digitalisation. This was one of the conclusions from the most recent meeting in the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Facilitation Committee (FAL) held 9-13 May 2022 (FAL 46).

The port call business process is a very important element for safe and efficient port operation - and a key objective of facilitation - following maritime digitalisation. Standardising and harmonising  electronic ship to shore communication was therefore once again high on the agenda at the IMO Facilitation Committee meeting held from 9-13 May 2022, with the aim of ensuring better and smarter communication between all actors involved in a port call.

The Maritime Single Window (MSW) concept, and particularly the so-called IMO Compendium, are key elements to success when strengthening  data communication between ship and shore.

“The IMO Compendium serves as a reference manual for creating and harmonising the systems needed to support transmission, receipt and response of information required for the arrival, stay and departure of the ship, persons and cargo via electronic data exchange,” says Jeppe Skovbakke Juhl, Manager, Maritime Safety & Security at BIMCO.

At the meeting, BIMCO, together with the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH), and the International Harbour Master Association (IHMA), proposed to enhance the implementation of MSW globally, by including the port call process (such as the just-in-time concept) and (in particular) the exchange of nautical and operational data beyond what is required today.

“The BIMCO proposal was widely accepted and the IMO guidelines for setting up a maritime single window was subsequently updated. The MSW concept is a central element in this process. A holistic integration of the port call process brings administrative, nautical and operational information and data into one system (MSW), which will ensure the quality of information provided and delivered. To expand its scope beyond the regulatory framework, MSW must be considered a technology neutral platform which includes nautical and operational information and data as a best practice for trade agnostic port call automation,” Juhl explains.

“The port call operations involve a substantial number of actors, and they need to have the correct information at the right time to ensure an efficient and safe port call . This is a huge step forward for harmonising the machine-to-machine data exchange communication with the shoreside,” Juhl adds.

In 2016, the IMO adopted mandatory regulations for electronic data exchange, requiring public authorities to establish systems to assist ship clearance processes and a MSW by 1 January 2024. Owing to that decision, FAL 46 adopted amendments to the Facilitation Convention which makes the single window for data exchange mandatory in ports around the world. This marked a significant step on the path to digitalization for shipping.

“The aim of using standardised and harmonised data structures is to ensure the use of a common "single window" concept although they may differ from country to country. If we can make sure to have a common interface when exchanging the data between ship and shore, all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, can be submitted via a single portal without duplication,” Juhl says.
Given the current size of the IMO Reference Data Model, the IMO Compendium is no longer produced in a Word format, but is instead issued in Excel file format. 
Jeppe Skovbakke Juhl


Jeppe Skovbakke Juhl

Manager, Maritime Safety & Security

Copenhagen, Denmark