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November 19, 2021

US to examine how data can improve shipping supply chain

A new initiative announced by the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) will explore how data can contribute to the long-term reliability of the shipping supply chain.

By Laura Husband

The Federal Maritime Commission effort, which will be led by US Commissioner Carl Bentzel, aims to identify the data constraints that impact the flow of ocean cargo and add to shipping supply chain issues.

The initiative will suggest recommendations for common data standards used by the international shipping supply chain, as well as access policies and protocols that would streamline information sharing across the ocean supply chain.

Federal Maritime Commission chairman Daniel Maffei explained: “Events of the past year have proven the need for the United States to achieve more capacity from our cargo delivery system. Information sharing and additional transparency in how containers move is one way we can move more containers more efficiently.”

The initiative will take place in multiple stages, with the first set of findings presented at a Maritime Data Summit in spring 2022.

Commissioner Bentzel will hold the first public meeting next month in Washington, DC and speakers will include representatives from the Biden Administration, data experts, standards-setting specialists, and representatives from FMC’s National Shippers Advisory Committee.

Commissioner Bentzel plans to conduct research, interviews, round tables, and hold public meetings to inform the “status quo” in maritime data.

The research will explore the common ocean shipping data that is created with each hand-off of a container through the supply chain, how that data is stored and shared, and identify the critical data elements used by each supply chain party.

Ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, truckers, railroads, and other government agencies will be invited to provide insight about data definitions, classification, and recommendations for improving interoperability of data records involving container shipping. Input from the Commission’s National Shipper Advisory Committee may also be solicited as part of the project. Initial deliverables will include a data inventory and recommendations for common standards.

Commissioner Bentzel said: “I have already met with many port industry leaders and stakeholders around our coastlines, and the topic of reliable, actionable operational shipping information to help more efficiently move cargo was one of the foremost topics of concern.

“Given the immense national economic impact and our Nation’s reliance on ocean shipping, sustained surges in cargo volumes and other operational impacts caused by Covid-19, it is clear to me that we need to develop a stronger system of information for the shipping public. The FMC will work with the industry to develop greater systems of transparency for services surrounding the international intermodal transportation of goods. Our port gateway corridors are limited by physical constraints and the best options for efficiencies lie with the greater utilisation of information technologies and coordination between the different modes in the supply chain.”

Other Federal Maritime Commission projects to address supply chain efficiency and congestion issues include Fact Finding 29, the Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC) Audit Program, investigating certain ocean carrier fees and surcharges, issuing a Notice of Inquiry into the use of merchant clauses in VOCCs’ bills of lading to require payment from entities that are not in contractual privity with the VOCC.

The initiative follows ongoing supply chain issues in the US with supply disruptions dampening growth, according to the WTO’s latest Goods Trade Barometer.

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