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Maritime sector digitalisation will boost global trade: World Bank
By TII News Services
Jan 23, 2021 , Washington


DIGITALISING the maritime sector will result in significant wide-ranging economic benefits and contribute to a stronger, more sustainable recovery, noted a new report launched by the World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) on Friday.

The joint report was designed to assist ports and the maritime transport community accelerate digitalisation to minimise ship-shore human interaction, which they highlighted as critical due to the current COVID-19 risks.

"Better digital collaboration between private and public entities across the maritime supply chain will result in significant efficiency gains, safer and more resilient supply chains, and lower emissions," it said.

Maritime transport carries over 90 per cent of global merchandise trade, totalling some 11 billion tons of cargo per year, the global financial body said.

"In many of our client countries, inefficiencies in the maritime sector result in delays and higher logistics costs, with an adverse impact on the entire economy. Digitisation gives us a unique chance to address this issue," noted Mr Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure.

"Beyond immediate benefits to the maritime sector, digitalisation will help countries participate more fully in the global economy, and will lead to better development outcomes," he added.

The report describes how collaborative use of digital technology can help streamline all aspects of maritime transport, from cross-border processes and documentation to communications between ship and shore, with a special focus on ports.

It analyses numerous technologies applied already by some from the world's leading port and maritime communities, including big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), fifth-generation technology (5G), blockchain solutions, wearable devices, unmanned aircraft systems, and other smart technology-based methods to improve performance and economic competitiveness.

Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has evidenced a key benefit of digitising waterborne and landside operations: meeting the urgent needs to minimise human interaction and enhance the resilience of supply chains against future crises.

IAPH Managing Director of Policy and Strategy, Mr Patrick Verhoeven, added: "The report's short and medium term measures to accelerate digitalisation have the proven potential to improve supply chain resilience and efficiency whilst addressing potential risks related to cybersecurity. However, necessary policy reform is also vital. Digitalisation is not just a matter of technology but, more importantly, of change management, data collaboration, and political commitment."

Although the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made it mandatory for all its member countries to exchange key data electronically under the FAL Convention, a recent IAPH survey revealed that only a third of over 100 responding ports comply with that requirement.

"The main barriers to digitalise cited by the ports were the legal framework in their countries or regions and persuading the multiple private-public stakeholders to collaborate, not the technology," an official statement said.

By joining with the World Bank to highlight the benefits of digitisation, the IAPH hopes to encourage better collaboration and accelerate the adoption of digital technology across the maritime sector.

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