By Amit Jain
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Singapore have selected Angola’s Port of Lobito for a pilot project to implement a digital ship clearance system. Launched in Mar 2021 with a call for expressions of interest to participate it commenced operation on 15 Nov. The Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project will be scaled up to benefit more countries in its next phase. The project will develop a system for the pilot port to allow electronic submission, through one single portal, of all information required by various government agencies when a ship calls at a port. This concept is known as the Maritime Single Window (MSW) system. Located on the west coast of Angola, the Port of Lobito handles containers, dry bulk and mining materials, serving the economic development of the central and southern regions of Angola. Through the Benguela Railway, the port also serves countries of the Southern African Development Community that do not have access to the sea.
Regulations in IMO’s Facilitation Convention require electronic exchange of data to ensure the efficient clearance of ships. The single window concept is aimed at avoiding duplication of effort. Under the pilot project data will need to be submitted only once, electronically through a single point of entry, to the relevant regulatory agencies and other parties. The selected country will be advised on the necessary legal, policy and institutional requirements for the MSW system. The port will then be provided with functional MSW software, hardware and/or IT services, configured to the country’s needs. Training will also be provided, as well as advice on policy reforms required to successfully implement an MSW. The pilot will be supported by Singapore via in-kind contributions and by IMO via the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP). Singapore will bring in its experience to cater to the technical requirements for ports that would like to incorporate port to port communication protocols in such a system. Tan Suan Jow, Dean of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) Academy, said: “Beyond supporting Angola, the pilot will serve as a model for IMO to match donors with member states for future partnerships for and beyond the domain of digitalisation, to encourage further efforts to make IMO’s digitalisation agenda an inclusive one.”
The implementation of MSW supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9, which seeks to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.