Mandatory Electronic Data Exchange for International Shipping Adopted
Mandatory requirements for the electronic exchange of information on cargo, crew, and passengers have been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as part of a revised and modernized annex to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), which aims to harmonize procedures for ships’ arrival, stay, and departure from port.
The new standard relating to the obligation of public authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information, within a period of three years after the adoption of the amendments, is among important changes in the revised annex, which is expected to enter into force on January 1, 2018.
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 period paper and electronic documents would be allowed.
The FAL treaty, first adopted in 1965, aims at securing the highest degree of uniformity in formalities and documentary requirements to be applied to the arrival, stay, and departure to ships as well as to its crew, passengers, baggage, and cargo. These include standardized forms for the maximum information required for the general declaration, cargo declaration, crew list, and passenger list and agreed minimum information requirements for the ship’s stores declaration and crew’s effects declaration.
The adoption of the revised FAL annex, by IMO’s Facilitation Committee, which met from earlier this month at IMO Headquarters in London, follows a comprehensive review of its provisions. The update is aimed at ensuring the FAL treaty adequately addresses the shipping industry’s present and emerging needs and serves to facilitate and expedite international maritime traffic. The objective is to prevent unnecessary delays to ships and to persons and property on board.
A new recommended practice encourages 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.
Standards and recommended practices relating to stowaways were also updated, to include references to relevant sections of the International Ship and Port Facilities’ Security (ISPS) Code. A new standard requires governments to incorporate into their national legislation legal grounds to allow prosecution of stowaways and individuals or companies aiding stowaways.
The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.