IMO and Singapore Launch SwiFT Project, a Digitized Port Information Exchange System

By Gordon Feller,

The International Maritime Organization is partnering with the Government of Singapore to create an ambitious new ship clearance project to establish a digitalized system for electronic exchange of information in ports, the SwiFT, or Single Window for Facilitation of Trade, project.

To kick-off the new project, the IMO issued a “call for expressions of interest” from countries with a medium-sized port. The request was to have them take part in a pilot program supported by Singapore via in-kind contributions, and by the IMO via its Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP).

Under the terms of the pilot project, the selected country would be advised on the necessary legal, policy and institutional requirements for the so-called Maritime Single Window (MSW) system. The port will then be provided with functional MSW software, hardware and/or IT services, configured to the country’s needs. Training would also be provided.

“This excellent news means a kickstart to the third element of their joint industry call to action last June, namely to strive for the introduction of Port Community Systems and secure data exchange platforms in the main ports of all member states represented in the International Maritime Organization,” International Association of Ports and Harbors Managing Director Dr. Patrick Verhoeven commented.

The first element of the call to action is focused on assessing the state of implementation of the IMO FAL requirement in ship-shore data exchange. This first phase was completed following an in-depth IAPH survey of more than a hundred world ports. The survey revealed that a third of the respondents had electronic data exchange systems operation, with a another third in design or development, and the other third yet to commence the digital journey.

In collaboration with the World Bank, IAPH has developed a guidance for ports looking to accelerate digitalization in a joint paper that was published in January.

IAPH’s Technical Data Collaboration Committee (DCC) Chair Pascal Ollivier said that “the second element of our industry call to action is an equally important factor. That is to ensure harmonization of data standards through use of the supply chain standards of the International Standardization Organization, the standards of the International Hydrographic Organization as well as the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business.”

Both the public and private sector responded to IAPH’s recent invitation – and a number of other leading maritime NGOs have also done so. Various organizations have put forward a proposal to co-create a single- and neutral- supporting technical standard under ISO Technical Committee 8 for administrative and operational data, which has so far been accepted by numerous key industry players.

Singapore has successfully implemented its national MSW, digitalPORT@SG. As described in the recent IMO announcement, Singapore brings its experience to cater to the technical requirements for medium-size ports, and work with ports that want to incorporate port to port communication protocols inside such a system.

The work on maritime single window implementation supports achieving a United Nations sustainable development goal seeking to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.