Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
A mandatory requirement for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports came into effect from 8 April 2019.
The aim is to make cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient, for the more than 10 billion tons of goods which are traded by sea annually across the globe.
The requirement, mandatory under IMOs Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), is part of a package of amendments under the revised Annexe to the FAL Convention, adopted in 2016.
In the words of IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim: ‘The new FAL Convention requirement for all Public Authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information related to maritime transport marks a significant move in the maritime industry and ports towards a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport.’
IMO’s Facilitation Convention encourages use of a single window for data, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal, without duplication.
Requirement for electronic data exchange came into effect as IMO’s Facilitation Committee was meeting for its 43rd session from 8-12 April.
Alongside other agenda items, at the time of writing, the Committee was due to continue its ongoing work on harmonization and standardization of electronic messages.
Phase One of the review of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic business, including the data elements of the FAL Convention, was expected to be completed and the revised Guidelines for setting up a single window system in maritime transport approved.
The FAL Committee was also due to receive an update on a successful IMO maritime single window project, implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, with Norway’s support. The source code developed for the system established in Antigua and Barbuda was due to be made available to other interested Member States with a presentation on the system during the Facilitation Committee.
The FAL Convention
The main objective of IMO’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), adopted in 1965, is to achieve the most efficient maritime transport as possible, looking for smooth transit in ports of ships, cargo and passengers.
This Convention, which has 121 Contracting Governments, contains standards and recommended practices and rules for simplifying formalities, documentary requirements and procedures on ships’ arrival, stay and departure.
Under the FAL Committee, IMO has developed standardised FAL documentation for authorities and Governments to use, and the FAL Convention urges all stakeholders to make use of them.
Documentation: The IMO Standardized Forms (FAL 1-7)
The Facilitation Convention (Standard 2.1) lists documents which public authorities can demand of a ship and recommends the maximum information and number of copies which should be required. IMO has developed Standardized Forms for seven of these documents.
They are the:
Five other documents are required, on security, on wastes from ships, on advance electronic cargo information for customs risk assessment purposes, and two additional ones under the Universal Postal Convention and the International Health Regulations.
Under the requirement for electronic data exchange, all national authorities should now have provision for electronic exchange of this information.
Details for this briefing and the accompanying illustration were kindly provided by the IMO Media service (www.imo.org ).
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On 15 October it was announced jointly from London and Kuala Lumpur that the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) had issued its report for the third quarter of 2019. This document demonstrates that fewer incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported than in
the first nine months of 2018.
A total of 119 incidents of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships have been reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) in 2019, compared to 156 incidents for the same period in 2018. Overall, the 2019 incidents include 95 vessels boarded, 10 vessels fired upon, 10 attempted attacks, and four vessels hijacked. The number of crew taken hostage through the first nine months has declined from 112 in 2018 to 49 in 2019.
While the overall number of incidents has dropped, incidents involving guns and knives remain consistent. There have been 24 knife-related and 35 gun-related incidents reported in 2019, compared to 25 and 37 for the first nine months of 2018. These statistics confirm IMB’s concerns over continued threats to the safety and security of seafarers.
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea remains a high risk area for piracy and armed robbery. The region accounts for 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings globally.
In July a general cargo vessel was hijacked approximately 120nm SW of Brass. Ten crew members were kidnapped from the vessel and released four weeks later. In August a bulk carrier and a general cargo vessel were boarded within hours of each other at Douala anchorage, Cameroon, and a total of seventeen crew were kidnapped from the vessels. Within six weeks all kidnapped crew were released. This incident demonstrates the range of piracy activity in the Gulf of Guinea and that all types of ships are vulnerable to attack. Lagos recorded 11 incidents in 2019, the highest number for any port.
In the words of said Pottengal Mukundan, Director, ICC IMB: ‘Although incidents are down, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a concern for piracy and armed robbery-related activities with kidnappings of crew members increasing in both scale and frequency. It is important that shipmasters and owners continue to report all actual, attempted, and suspected incidents to ensure that an accurate picture of these attacks emerge and action is taken against these criminals before the incidents further escalate.’
In recognition of California Clean Air Day, the Port of Long Beach (POLB) announced on 2 October the demonstration of hydrogen- and electric-powered cargo handling equipment at two terminals, in pursuit of its goal to become the world’s first zero-emissions seaport.
This new equipment was purchased through a $5.3 million grant from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as part of the C-PORT, or Commercialization of POLB Off-Road Technology Project. It was reported that the port has several continuing clean-air technology demonstrations in partnership with labour, marine terminal operators and regulatory agencies.
It is understand that the CARB grant falls under the umbrella of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities similar to those adjacent to the port.
In the words of Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bonnie Lowenthal: ‘Today, you see some of the equipment with the potential to take us to the next level – zero emissions. The equipment, which will be operated by our longshore partners at the port, will help us reduce our impact on our neighbourhoods and contribute to the port’s ability to increase trade.’