The importance of being interoperable

If every port speaks your language, ship reporting formalities are just a formality

Photo Credit: Lance Cunningham via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lance Cunningham via Compfight cc

Any company in the transport and logistics domain can benefit from efficient information sharing, from good owners and shippers, to transportation companies in all modes, freight forwarders and integrators, terminal operators at rail, sea and inland port and intermodal terminals.

Being able to interface existing systems for ship reporting formalities, a middleware solution (software designed to make ICT systems talk to each other) can gather the information needed for the B2A (Business to Authority) and B2B (Business to Business) procedures from the ship information legacy system, process them and forward them to the appropriate counterpart in such a way that the message can be received and correctly interpreted by both the competent authorities’ and the dedicated business’ systems.

We can imagine it like a translator that is able to speak your language and translate it into the local port language, the customs’ and the terminal operator’s ones, and back. Advantages of such a solution include a great simplification of the communication burden for the operators, a huge saving in equipment, traffic and manpower, an increase in efficiency and competitiveness, and a dramatic reduction of handling errors.

To this end, a project called MIELE (Multimodal Interoperability E-services for Logistics and Environment sustainability) has developed such a middleware and demonstrated just how these advantages can be achieved. This solution offers new and improved services to companies, helping them exploit economies of scale to be more competitive operationally and financially. MIELE promotes door-to-door services to companies in logistics nodes and addresses reverse logistics issues, such as returning empty backhauls.

Such advantages come from the core functionality of the middleware, that is to make the processes of exchanging information among all the stakeholders in a B2B or B2A transaction easy and smooth.

How does it work?

When a ship arrives in or departs from a port, its owner must provide information to the port authorities about the transported cargo, dangerous goods, crew etc. for administrative purposes. Several are the competent authorities to be informed, both national and local: customs, security, environmental safety agencies, etc.

Besides, shipowners need to communicate with business partners, for terminal operations, logistics services, etc., for their business interests and procedures inland or at the terminal.

Each actor in this scenario uses paper and electronic procedures, with different communication standards and its own local ICT system for storing, communicating and providing information to others. Possibly these are organized locally in port communities (B2B) and single window platforms (B2A). As a consequence, the administrative burden can be quite high for shipping companies.

MIELE middleware scheme

MIELE middleware scheme

In this context, shipowners, operators and port communities are strongly interested in using a common system for communicating with the various counterparts and in the different port situations, in order to reduce the investments and the possibility of errors. Efforts from the EC are also meant to reduce this heterogeneity and to push for common solutions in every member state.

While an agreement on a common system is unlikely to be reached in the short term, the MIELE project is demonstrating through its middleware that it is feasible and much more easy to make these systems able to cooperate and communicate among each other.

The MIELE middleware is currently under demonstration in 5 full-scale interoperable pilots within the national systems participating in the project: Italy, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Germany, where the local ICT systems for ship reporting are made interoperable by interfacing with the MIELE Middleware. The demonstrations are meant to show both the feasibility of national single interfaces (“single windows”) and the advantages of a common interoperable solution against the manual interface among operators using different informative systems and procedures, in line with the EU directive.

Contact

The MIELE demonstrations are currently ongoing. To know more about them and the solution, you can contact:
Alberto Capella Garcés
ITA – Instituto Tecnologico de Aragon
acapella@ita.es

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