• ARI Media

'We Will Be the Industry’s Voice on IT Issues'



World’s five top-tier liner companies MSC, A.P. Moller – Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, and Ocean Network Express have revealed their intentions to set up an association aimed at digitalization, standardization and interoperability in the container shipping industry.

Speaking to World Maritime News, André Simha, Global Chief Information Officer of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and spokesperson of the group, said the key driver behind the association was to make something for the customers that is common and open.

“It’s in the customers best interest, if container shipping companies operate with common set of standards. When we collaborate, we can deliver better technological changes to our customers and more quickly compared to working alone. Customers don’t want to connect to multiple different systems, so you need something that is common and open,” Simha said.

The association plans to start operating from early 2019 and the next steps will be to establish it as a legal entity, involving relevant regulators. It has been devised as a neutral, non-profit body, which doesn’t plan to develop or operate a digital platform.

Importance of Cooperation

Simha has been a vocal advocate of industry cooperation on standardization and technology development. When asked why was that important, he said:

“We believe that we’ve reached the point in the carrier world where we need something that is common, open and done in the framework of a neutral and non-profit association. Also, the timing is right because new emerging technologies are creating more opportunities to help our customers’ businesses.

“The plan of the coming association is to discuss the digital future of container shipping by being the industry’s collective voice on issues relating to information technology standards, working towards standardization, setting the frameworks for effective and universally adoptable solutions developed by other parties, exploring possibilities of innovation and in general, moving the industry forward.”

The five members of the association said they were eager to welcome new members.

“Collaboration and getting other carriers joining the association will be key for the success of this initiative. I have personally no doubt it will succeed because there is a strong interest between the members to collaborate and our customers are also asking for more standardization,” he said.

There are numerous alleys to explore in the IT world, which have been very popular in the industry, including blockchain, big data, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and autonomous shipping.

According to Simha, the association is yet to define its priorities in this respect and specific projects would be considered once the association is established.

“However, we see some trends in the market such as data standards, blockchain, cybersecurity, that could be of relevance. For example, today, we have hundreds of different types of messages for different ports and terminals around the world, all with the same basic information. That’s an overhead that is inefficient for everyone,” he pointed out, adding it could be important to discuss cyber security best practice in the future association.

Digitalization a Matter of Survival

Digitalization is no longer just a buzzword in the shipping industry, it has been identified as an issue of survival. Namely, those who don’t adopt new digital technologies in the coming years risk being left on the sidelines.