FMC Commissioner Bentzel and DCSA collaborate on maritime data standards

The meeting was part of Commissioner Bentzel’s Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI) of which the final recommendations will be published soon.

AMSTERDAM 31 March, 2023, Commissioner Carl Bentzel of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) met to discuss the way forward for setting maritime data standards in the United States and beyond. The meeting was part of Commissioner Bentzel’s Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI) of which the final recommendations will be published soon.

“During  the COVID pandemic the inefficiencies in global maritime supply chains became painfully clear. These inefficiencies costed trillions of dollars which contributed to the high inflation US consumers are experiencing today”, Commissioner Bentzel said. “The issues are caused to a large extent by a lack of meaningful and real-time exchange of the data necessary to ensure an efficient and economic transportation system. And, because providing an efficient and economic transportation system in ocean commerce is the core responsibility of the FMC, we started the MTDI.”

André Simha, Chairman of the DCSA Supervisory Board and Global Chief Digital & Innovation Officer of MSC, confirmed the need for better data; “The traditional methods container shipping has been using to exchange data have revealed their limitations in recent years. That is why, despite being competitors, the containers shipping lines came together in 2019 and founded DCSA. The association has made a lot of progress advancing digitalization through common open-source standards, but we can’t do it alone as ocean carriers. The maritime supply chain is made of separate links which all need to be equally strong. We welcome the FMC’s MTDI initiative which brings together all stakeholders to identify and address the shortcomings of standardized data exchange in maritime transportation.”

Already in June 2022, it was concluded in the material provided for the MTDI Summit that the data and the solutions to process it exist in abundance. Equally, numerous standards exist for information related to maritime freight transportation. However, “few sources have been developed and vetted across stakeholder groups. Exceptions to this are the information collected by Customs and Border Protection, the information collected by the U.S. Coast Guard on vessel entries into U.S. water, and standards developed by DCSA”.

“Throughout the initial MTDI meetings, it was emphasised that the FMC should not reinvent the wheel or impose requirements onto the industry which won’t work in an international operational environment”, Commissioner Bentzel said. “DCSA’s standards fit these criteria and provide an excellent basis on which to develop our national standard for maritime data exchange. However, due to their voluntary nature, the uptake of those standards is slow. Therefore I will put forward an inquiry to stakeholders to see to what extent a rulemaking could be beneficial. If it would be deemed necessary to regulate, I do not intend to set detailed requirements, but rather to create guard rails ensuring it goes in the right direction.

The DCSA Supervisory Board, which consists of the global CIO’s of the largest container shipping lines and representation of the cargo owner’s community, appreciated this approach. Thomas Bagge, CEO of DCSA, said: “collaboration between the public and private sectors, as displayed in the MTDI, is essential to solve the challenges still inherent in supply chains. Such collaboration will provide better resilience, visibility and efficiency to the benefit of all ecosystem participants.. The MTDI is an extension of the work we began, and we are proud and excited to see our efforts accelerated in this way. Therefore, we highly appreciate the leading role Commissioner Bentzel is taking. Not just in the US but globally”.

In the light of globally leading the way, Commissioner Bentzel also met with his counterparts at the European Commission and Europe’s largest port authorities; the port of Antwerp-Bruges and the port of Rotterdam. “I saw that Europe is very advanced in data exchange for both maritime and inland transportation, more advanced than the US. However, everybody I spoke with agreed that my recommendations to establish a (eco)system for data sharing is an essential piece to their puzzles which is still missing. This, together with the support of DCSA and its members, confirms and strengthens my belief that turning the MTDI into Maritime Transportation Data System (MTDS) is necessary”.

Commissioner Bentzel’s final recommendations will be published soon. All stakeholders will again have an opportunity to provide input, after which the FMC will consider whether a rulemaking is the appropriate way forward for achieving an efficient and economic transportation system in the ocean commerce of the United States and beyond.