IMO Facilitation Committee to Discuss Autonomous Shipping

April 7, 2024

Source: IMO
Source: IMO

The IMO Facilitation Committee will meet in person at IMO Headquarters in London for its 48th session (FAL 48) from April 8 to 12 to discuss issues related to autonomous shipping; prevention of illegal wildlife trafficking on ships; digitalization initiatives and the implementation of the Maritime Single Window and Port Community Systems.

The Facilitation Committee (FAL) will continue discussions around regulating commercial vessels that can operate independent of human interaction - Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). The Committee is expected to consider and approve the report of the Joint Working Group on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS-JWG), which held its second session in May 2023. The report includes recommendations pertaining to:  

• the role and responsibilities of the MASS master, MASS crew

• the role and responsibilities of the remote operator and remote operation centers

• certificates and other documents  

• information-sharing, connectivity and cybersecurity.  

The Committee will update the roadmap on addressing MASS issues related to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention).  

Alongside these discussions, an IMO seminar focusing on the implications, challenges and opportunities of MASS for ports and public authorities is scheduled for April 11, 2024, from 2.30pm to 4.00pm at IMO Headquarters. The event will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships  

The Committee will consider proposed amendments to the Guidelines for the Prevention and Suppression of the Smuggling of Wildlife on Ships Engaged in International Maritime Traffic FAL.5/Circ.50, and is expected to adopt these amendments by means of a FAL resolution.

The amendments, proposed by Kenya and ISCO, are based on experiences shared by Member States on the implementation to date of the guidelines and aim to enhance awareness and implementation of the revised Guidelines.  

A new e-learning course, “Introduction to counter wildlife trafficking in the maritime supply chains”, developed jointly by IMO and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will be presented to delegates, ahead of its official launch in May.  

IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business

The Committee is expected to approve a new version of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business. The Compendium aims to harmonize the vast array of electronic data exchanged between ships, ports and other stakeholders. It includes IMO data sets and IMO reference model which provide a common format and semantics for such data. This enables IT systems from different stakeholders to exchange data efficiently with shared meaning, while supporting the harmonization of maritime single windows (MSWs) and Port Community Systems (PCS). The Compendium is maintained with the contribution of funds made by Finland, Germany, Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the port of Rotterdam.
The IMO Compendium (sixth version), to be approved by FAL 48, includes the following new and updated data sets:

• IMO data set on “Noon report”;

• Revised data sets on “Maritime Declaration of Health”, “Ballast water reportʺ “Advanced Passenger Information”, and the updated Just In Time (JIT) sub-model; and

• Amendments to the IMO data set to improve consistency in the naming and definition of IMO data elements.

Application of the maritime single window

The Committee will continue discussions on the use of maritime single windows (MSW), which became mandatory for the sector on January 1, 2024. The Committee will receive reports from Member States describing their experiences to date with MSW implementation. Angola and Singapore will share their experience with the successful implementation of the SWiFT project in the port of Lobito.  

In addition, the Committee will consider a proposed revision of FAL.5/Circ.46 on Guidelines on authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services.

Digitalization initiatives

The Committee will consider recommendations and proposals stemming from a recent survey conducted by industry partners on digitalization within ports. The survey indicated a need for standardized and harmonized digital systems across ports globally, given the wide range of different port call interfaces and documentation among Member States, as well as the lack of IT infrastructure on many ships that would enable more efficient data exchange with ports.

In addition, the Committee will consider a proposal for a new output to develop an overarching IMO Strategy on digitalization to contribute to a more integrated approach to maritime digitalization in the Organization.

Development of guidelines on Port Community Systems

The Committee is expected to finalize new guidelines on Port Community Systems (PCS) which serve as a complementary instrument to the Maritime Single Window system. Both are digital IT platforms used to collect and exchange data between stakeholders, streamlining operations and enhancing competitiveness. PCS facilitates the exchange of information between public and private stakeholders involved in port and terminal operations.  

The Committee will consider the report of the Correspondence Group, including the draft Guidelines on Port Community Systems, for approval at FAL 48. These will align with existing guidelines of the FAL Committee, particularly the IMO Guidelines for setting up a maritime single window (FAL.5/Circ.42/Rev.3).

Review of Explanatory Manual to the FAL Convention

The Committee is expected to approve the revised Explanatory Manual to the FAL Convention. This manual provides guidance on interpreting the legal text of the Convention and its provisions and gives examples of best practices for implementing Standards and Recommended Practices.
The review of the manual commenced after amendments to the FAL Convention were adopted in May 2022 at FAL 46. A Correspondence Group was established to carry out the review, focusing on the new or substantially amended provisions, harmonizing some elements and terms and checking cross references; and reviewing comments from other organizations on the relevant sections of the Manual. The Committee will consider the report of the Correspondence Group, including proposed amendments to the Manual, for approval at FAL 48.  

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