The Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI) was a project run by Federal Maritime Commissioner Carl Bentzel at the behest of Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Daniel B. Maffei to examine the issue of data and maritime commerce and develop recommendations for common data standards and lexicon and access policies/protocols.
The goals of the MTDI were:
- Catalog the status quo in maritime data elements, metrics, transmission, and access;
- Identify key gaps in data definitions/classification; and
- Develop recommendations for common data standards and access policies, protocols, and practices.
Further to his meeting with the Board of Directors at DCSA and his counterparts at the European Commission, Commissioner Bentzel has released his final recommendations for the establishment of the Maritime Transportation Data System (MTDS) generated through the MTDI process..
In broad terms the MDTS is set to :
1) establish a system of information on planned ocean carrier voyages,
2) information on vessel transits with the real-time position of vessels and real-time estimates of arrival,
3) harmonization of standards for public information related to terminal access for cargo retrieval and
4) standardize the method of characterizing cargo status for cargo retrieval from MTOs.
The recommendations were based on answers to common questions addressed to all participants from the fields of Trucking, Warehousing, BCOs, Chassis industry, Railroad, Federal partners, OTIs, Aggregators, Labour, IT, MTOs, and Carriers.
MTDI commentators, particularly beneficial cargo owners and consumers of intermodal carriage expressed concerns about obtaining accurate information for cargo pick-up, delivery, and receipt.
Misinformation on cargo availability often leads to inefficiencies and trucking assets being turned away from terminals. The challenge is ensuring that the responsible party provides accurate information and that real-time status updates are shared with all relevant parties to facilitate the timely and efficient delivery of shipments.
Commenting on the release of the recommendations, Commissioner Bentzel said “Cargo surges will happen again. It is my goal, and the intent of this report is, to have a better information sharing process in place that provides better advanced notification of incoming cargo and much better coordination between the different transportation modes and stakeholders. The number one takeaway from the 18 MTDI public meetings I held is that moving freight through our supply chain is a shared responsibility.”
Below is a synopsis of the recommendations and for those interested, the full report can be downloaded here..
Recommendations by cluster
While the MTDI meeting discussions mainly focused on the responsibilities and performance of carriers, MTOs, and intermodal rail carriers, as per the report, achieving greater supply chain efficiency requires equal engagement and performance standards from all participants, including shippers and consignees.
Shippers and consignees have responsibilities in the administrative release of cargo and the commercial relationship between carriers and MTOs. Their participation in the pre-check-in process is crucial for ensuring fluidity and efficiency within the supply chain.
As part of the port coordination voluntary guidelines, shippers should track vessel arrival, pay for customs clearance before arrival, release bills of lading, and provide delivery orders within free time if moving under merchant haulage.
1. Adopt real-time track and trace methodology: Ocean carriers should provide planning information, real-time actual position information, status information, and real-time estimates of arrival for each segment of a journey into or out of the United States.
2. Make planned carrier transit activities publicly available: These activities should be time and date stamped through API, with updates provided three months from the commencement of a voyage. Changes to cancel or delay a voyage should be reported in real time.
3. Report on vessel’s real-time position and status: Ocean carriers should report harmonized information related to the vessel’s status while in transit, including departure location, interim berth status, reasons for delay, and real-time running forecasts of arrival at each destination.
4. Standardize information for U.S. exporters: Ocean carriers should provide real-time estimated arrivals at berth, time-date stamped, five days in advance of arrival to the U.S. terminals they are servicing. Terminals should make public information available through an API about the Earliest Receiving Date (ERD) and post notice of any change of ERD status by 12:00 PM (Local Time) the preceding day.
5. Align with FMC’s National Shipping Advisory Committee (NSAC) data recommendations: MTDS reporting should comport with NSAC data recommendations, implementing the first-ever real-time in-transit estimated arrival reporting requirements for international liner shipping.
1. Harmonize terminal access and cargo status information: The MTDS aims to streamline the process of obtaining terminal access information for delivery and pick-up, ship arrivals and departures, and standardizing cargo status descriptions.
2. Leverage existing systems: The report states that most existing operating systems can meet the MTDS information recommendations, and no new information is being asked to be provided.
3. Open and Closed Facing information: Open Facing information should be provided through an API and includes details like Earliest Receiving Date (ERD), loading/unloading operations, on-dock rail schedules, gate restrictions, and intermodal chassis availability. Closed Facing information is restricted to contractual parties and includes container status harmonization (Available, Unavailable, On Hold, and Cargo handling).
4. Harmonize container status: The MTDS recommends harmonization of container status while in the terminal, including details on free time, demurrage penalties, and the various cargo handling processes.
5. Ensure consistency with FMC guidance: The MTDS recommendations for demurrage charges and free time should be consistent with the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) guidance on demurrage and the incentive principle, ensuring that third-party charges align with those implemented by the Marine Terminal Operator (MTO).
1. Intermodal rail service is crucial: Intermodal rail service plays a vital role in connecting ports to inland points, and its efficiency has a significant impact on port competitiveness and cargo volumes.
2. Pandemic exposed challenges: Insufficient investment in personnel and equipment during the pandemic led to port congestion, lost business opportunities, and reduced services, highlighting the need for improvements in rail intermodal services.
3. MTDS recommendations for intermodal rail carriers: The report suggests that carriers carrying over 250,000 intermodal car units should provide Open Facing information (train departure and arrival details) and Closed Facing information (location of railroad service in transit) via an API, with appropriate time and date stamps, and data confidentiality measures.
1. Ports Coordination Recommendations: The MTDS recommendation encourages greater transparency of services and access to general information affecting transportation, cargo handling services, securing berth access at port terminals, and other port-wide operations.
2. Voluntary guidelines: The MTDS recommends the FMC issue voluntary guidelines on practices that could guide a better informed and coordinated system of services that impact the ability to move cargo through the intermodal system, covering forecasted service levels, drayage trucking, and equipment adequacy, among other factors.
3. Repository of information: MTDS ports would be required to serve as repositories of information on ocean carrier, MTO, and rail carrier services, along with certain other port-wide information, allowing each port to respond according to its own needs without being subject to a direct federal mandate.
4. Centralized information: Many BCO/shippers complained about the lack of centralized information; requiring each MTDS port to provide repository information on services will reduce inefficiency and allow the port to independently determine how to supplement or format information.
5. Ports’ role in providing information: The MTDS recommends that ports provide ocean carriers with information necessary to secure pilotage and a berth at a terminal, as well as addressing related issues impacting port-wide operations, such as weather-related access adjustments and national security-imposed modifications.
Other key findings from the report
During the MTDI comment process, participants emphasized the need for real-time, credible information on containerized cargo transportation, proposing a track and trace standard for data exchange throughout the supply chain.
Although major international carriers offer similar services, their communication methods and business models vary, leading to congestion at ports and terminals.
The top MTDI objective is to institute carrier standards for real-time data sharing to improve planning and coordination.
The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) has been developing a digital data-based track and trace methodology, including an industry lexicon.
The integration of smart container technology into the supply chain has been a significant topic during the MTDI process. Smart containers collect and transmit GPS and other data owned by the container owner, providing real-time information on location, security breaches, temperature control, tampering, and other sensor data to shippers, container lines, and transportation providers.
The U.S. currently lags behind China and Europe in this field, and there are no rules or regulations regarding data security and sovereignty, potentially posing a national security threat.
The full impact of smart containers on the supply chain is not yet clear, but the implementation of MTDS recommendations could enhance their market viability and future usage.
About the FMC
The FMC has regulatory jurisdiction over the practices of the common carriage (ocean liner services) of goods by water in the foreign commerce of the United States. Since the passage of the Shipping Act of 1984, the law defines common carriage to include intermodal, or interior point intermodal (IPI) service where the common carrier, “assumes responsibility for the transportation from the port or point of receipt to the port or point of destination.” 46 U.S.C. § 41102(7).