Mandatory Electronic Data Exchange for International Shipping Among IMO Changes

Excerpt from: Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg | April 14, 2016

A requirement for public authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information on cargo, crew and passengers was among the outcomes of a recent meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Facilitation Committee, according to an IMO press release.

The committee also made other changes to modernize the annex to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, which aims to secure the highest practicable degree of uniformity in formalities and other procedures for ships’ arrival, stay and departure from port. The update is aimed at ensuring that the FAL treaty adequately addresses the shipping industry’s present and emerging needs and serves to facilitate and expedite international maritime traffic.

The electronic exchange of information standard is expected to enter into force Jan. 1, 2018. However, there will be a transitional period of 12 months from the date of the introduction of such systems to make electronic transmission mandatory during which time both paper and electronic documents will be allowed.

The committee also adopted a recommended practice encouraging the use of the “single window” concept 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.

The IMO is currently conducting a single window project that so far has focused on gathering information from some developing countries on the current situation of the clearance of ships, cargo and passengers at ports and gathering further information from the authorities involved in the clearance of ships. The next phase will involve designing, developing and implementing a prototype maritime single window in a selected country.

The project was initiated after the IMO determined that while a majority of its member states have some kind of single window in place related to cargo, only a few had one for maritime transport.

Another newly adopted standard requires governments, where appropriate, to incorporate into their national legislation legal grounds to allow prosecution of stowaways, attempted stowaways and any individual or company aiding a stowaway or an attempted stowaway with the intention of facilitating access to the port area, any ship, cargo or freight containers.