In a leap towards promoting connectivity in the maritime sector, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has announced the mandatory Maritime Single Window (MSW). As of January 1, 2024, governments worldwide are obligated to employ this digital platform for efficient information exchange between ships, ports, and government agencies.
The MSW, which comes under the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), streamlines processes for ship arrival, stay, and departure, with the hope of boosting the efficiency of global shipping. According to IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez, “Digitalisation is critical for greater efficiency in shipping. The Maritime Single Window delivers information between ships, ports, and government agencies quickly, reliably, and smoothly.”
A recent video released by the IMO highlights the necessity of the MSW in facilitating the exchange of vital information between ships and various entities ashore. The MSW, mandatory in all ports since the beginning of this year, ensures data submission through a unified portal, eliminating duplication and distributing information to the relevant authorities.
The IMO has actively supported countries in implementing the platform, with a generic version handed over to the Port of Lobito in Angola in November 2023. This initiative builds upon previous successful projects, such as the delivery of a Maritime Single Window system in Antigua and Barbuda in 2019.
The Facilitation Committee of the IMO has issued guidelines to assist member states in implementing the MSW, including revised instructions on its set up, as well as procedures for authentication, integrity, and confidentiality of information exchanges.
In addition to digitalisation efforts, amendments to the Facilitation Convention, effective January 1, 2024, address lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The updated annex ensures that ships and ports remain operational during public health emergencies, designates key worker status to port workers and ship crews, and sets vaccination requirements for passengers.
Moreover, the amendments take a systemic approach to tackle corruption associated with the ship-shore interface in ports. Governments are now required to encourage public authorities to address corruption risks and ensure accountability in maritime activities.
The IMO urges stakeholders to adopt the IMO Compendium, a reference data model, to standardise data exchange across different systems. The organisation expects this approach will contribute to simpler, more efficient maritime trade globally.