BIMCO urges harmonisation standards for information exchange


BIMCO called for harmonisation of computer data elements identity. A lack of such harmonisation will lead to excessive administrative burdens when using digital exchange of information between the ship and shore.

BIMCO attended the 1st session of the IMO Harmonisation Group on Data Modelling (HGDM), which was held in London from 15 to 20 October 2017.

The HGDM is a working group under the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR). NCSR deals with the development of e-navigation and the working group is essential for setting up standardised communication. The development of e-navigation at the IMO is based on a number of Maritime Service Portfolios (MSPs).

Draft IMO resolution on maritime services

Harmonisation is key to the success of e-navigation and a template was developed to register and standardise maritime services. The template serves as a tool to assist the transition from traditional information by voice to digital information exchanged between the ship and shore using the existing framework in IMO’s instruments. A definition of a format and structure, a template and an associated guideline will describe how information should be digitalised.

During the meeting, it was acknowledged that the description of maritime services should be differentiated from physical service (eg information on tug services available in a port versus the actual service of towing or maneuvering a ship by the use of tugs). It was agreed that the template and guidelines were meant to describe and help implement the operational service.

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) will now test the template as a basis to harmonise maritime services.

Draft guidance on the definition and harmonisation of the format and structure of maritime services will have to be approved by NCSR in February 2018, and subsequently approved at MSC 100, in December 2018.

Standardised data element structure

BIMCO submitted a paper (HGDM 1/5/3) at the meeting that proposed the standardisation of the data elements' identity (ID) of Maritime Services.

In the submission, we emphasised the importance of developing a common definition of the individual data element’s identities (IDs) to ensure inter-operability between services and to facilitate smooth communication. For example, the data element “ship name” should be assigned with a designated data element identification say “ShipID.ShipName”, which can be used by computers to ensure correct exchange of that specific information.

A harmonised data element ID structure will help to ensure proper and practical implementation of machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions. Currently, there are several international standards that use different IDs for the same data element. Different IDs makes it difficult, if not impossible, to develop standardised M2M solutions.

The submission was very well received and strong supported.


To ensure that developers of e-navigation solutions would apply harmonised data element IDs, a common database was proposed. The database could issue, manage and make the various data element IDs available for all stakeholders. In the proposal, such (open look-up) database should be developed and maintained by the IMO.

As decision on a common database was not taken at the meeting, BIMCO was invited to bring this important matter to the next meeting of NCSR.


Jeppe Skovbakke Juhl
in Copenhagen, DK


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