Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortcomings and obstacles in worldwide maritime supply chains were starkly exposed. These inadequacies led to trillions of dollars in elevated shipping expenses and delays, which significantly contributed to the heightened inflation faced by US consumers today.
Insufficient and untimely data exchange exacerbated shipping congestion, hindering the establishment of a streamlined and cost-effective transportation system.
The Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI) Summit in June 2022 in the aftermath of the severe supply chain disruptions in the US reached several conclusions. Firstly, there is an ample supply of data and methods to process shipping and maritime data.
Secondly, while numerous strategies exist for handling information about maritime cargo operations, only a handful of sources and definitions have been thoroughly developed and approved by stakeholder groups.
Notable exceptions include data gathered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, information collected by the U.S. Coast Guard on vessel entries into U.S. waters, and standards established by DCSA.
Commissioner Carl Bentzel of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) met with the Board of Directors of the Digital Container Shipping Association recently to discuss a path forward for implementing international container maritime data standards in the United States trades. The discussion on how to finalize data standards is an outgrowth of the Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI).
Commenting on the meeting, Commissioner Bentzel said “Throughout the initial MTDI meetings, it was emphasized that the FMC should not reinvent the wheel or impose requirements onto the industry which will not work in an international operational environment.”
“DCSA’s standards fit these criteria and provide an excellent basis on which to develop our national standard for maritime data exchange. However, due to their voluntary nature, adopting those standards has been slow, too slow. Therefore, it might be a useful exercise to solicit feedback from the public on whether rulemaking could be beneficial. I do not intend to set detailed requirements, but rather to harmonize existing information to be maximized to provide real-time information and to create guardrails ensuring it is properly conveyed to the shipping public,” he added.
André Simha, Chairman of the DCSA Supervisory Board and Global Chief Digital & Innovation Officer of MSC, confirmed the need for better data saying “The traditional methods container shipping has been using to exchange data had revealed their limitations in recent years.
That is why, despite being competitors, the container shipping lines came together in 2019 and founded DCSA. The association has made a lot of progress in advancing digitalization through common open-source standards, but we can’t do it alone as ocean carriers. The maritime supply chain is made of separate links which all need to be equally strong.”
“We welcome the FMC’s MTDI initiative which brings together all stakeholders to identify and address the shortcomings of standardized data exchange in maritime transportation,” added Simha.
Commissioner Bentzel also met with his counterparts at the European Commission and with senior officials at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges and the Port of Rotterdam. “Europe is very advanced in data exchange for maritime and inland transportation. Both ports are critical nodes servicing U.S. trade, and they have continually struggled to get better information, in order to maximize the efficient movement of intermodal container cargo.”
Thomas Bagge, CEO of DCSA, said “Collaboration between the public and private sectors, as displayed in the MTDI, is essential to solve the challenges still inherent in supply chains. Such collaboration will provide better resilience, visibility, and efficiency to the benefit of all ecosystem participants.
The MTDI is an extension of the work we began, and we are proud and excited to see our efforts accelerated in this way. Therefore, we highly appreciate the leading role Commissioner Bentzel is taking. Not just in the US but globally”.
Commissioner Bentzel’s concluding suggestions are set to be released shortly. Stakeholders will have another chance to offer their insights, after which the FMC will determine if the rulemaking is the suitable course of action to attain a streamlined and cost-effective transportation system for ocean commerce within the United States and beyond.