In a pivotal step towards advancing digitalization in the shipping industry, the year 2024 witnesses the implementation of the mandatory “Maritime Single Window” (MSW). Under the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), governments are obligated to utilize a unified digital platform, the MSW, since January 1, 2024, for seamless information exchange with ships during port calls. This measure aims to streamline arrival, stay, and departure procedures, significantly enhancing global shipping efficiency.
Arsenio Dominguez, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), emphasized the critical role of digitalization for increased shipping efficiency, stating that the MSW facilitates swift, reliable, and smooth information flow among ships, ports, and government agencies.
The IMO has actively assisted nations in adopting the MSW, exemplified by the November 2023 handover of a generic MSW platform to the Port of Lobito in Angola. This initiative builds upon the success of the Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) project, supported by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and IMO. The Facilitation Committee of IMO has issued guidelines to aid Member States in implementing the MSW, including protocols for setting up the system and ensuring the security of information exchanges.
The Facilitation Convention, adopted in 1965, has continually evolved to embrace digitalization and automation in shipping procedures. The convention mandates public authorities to establish, maintain, and use single window systems for electronic information exchange regarding ships’ arrival, stay, and departure.
Amendments to the Facilitation Convention, effective January 1, 2024, address lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. These include provisions ensuring the continuous operation of ships and ports during public health emergencies, designating port workers and ship crews as key workers, and providing best practice recommendations for crew movement.
Additionally, the updated convention takes a systemic approach to combat corruption in the ship-shore interface. Contracting Governments are now obligated to encourage public authorities to assess and address corruption risks, promoting integrity, transparency, and accountability.
In a video transcript, IMO stresses the importance of digitalization in exchanging vital information during ship entry and exit from ports. The IMO Compendium, an agreed-upon data set and reference model by IMO, ISO, UNECE, and WCO, aims to harmonize international standards for efficient data exchange, encouraging stakeholders to adopt it when building digital systems and maritime single windows.
The Maritime Single Window has become mandatory as of January 1, 2024, marking a significant stride towards a more connected and efficient global maritime industry.