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"The new FAL Convention requirement for all Public Authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information related to maritime transport marks a significant move in the maritime industry and ports towards a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport,"
– IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim
The IMO has announced that since April 8 2019, it is mandatory for national governments to have a form of electronic data exchange between ships and ports. The aim is to make cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient, for the 10 billion + tons of goods that are traded via sea annually worldwide.
The requirement is part of a package of amendments adopted in 2016 by the IMO, under the revised Annex to the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention).
The FAL Convention encourages the utilization of a single window for data, to validate all the information essential by public authorities concerning the arrival, stay, and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal without duplication.
The implementation date for electronic data exchange coincides with the 43rd session of the IMO’s Facilitation Committee meeting that took place April 8-12. The Committee will focus on the ongoing efforts of harmonization and standardization of electronic messages, among other agenda items. The revised guidelines for setting up a single window system in maritime transport are set to be approved, during the committee meeting.
The FAL Convention
The FAL Convention has been in force since 1967 and its primary objectives are to prevent unnecessary delays in maritime traffic, to aid cooperation between governments and to secure the highest practicable degree of uniformity in formalities and other procedures.
Governments are often represented at the FAL Committee by maritime or port authorities. But customs, health, police, immigration, agriculture, and defense authorities are all involved in the FAL process.
Why does FAL matter?
FAL matters because if the maritime traffic flows smoothly, shipments move faster and more efficient. Without it, the whole range of administrative processes may cause more unnecessary delays.
Statistics show that countries that utilize FAL have better import and export figures, lower transport costs, and contribute to sustainable development.