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HANSA 10-2019

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Schifffahrt | Shipping The quest of talking the same IT language The potential for automation and monitoring is huge – for example in the hotly debated topic of misdeclaration of hazardous goods or container tracking. But there is already a lack of uniform norms. Two current initiatives deal with telematics and blockchain The Container Owners Association, the international organisation representing the interests of freight container owners, has recently published a guide, providing an overview of the technology issues that they might face, and the choices that are available to them. Talking to HANSA, COA-Secretary Patrick Hicks explains that the association focussed on the container equipment side decided to have a deeper look at the equipment management side a year or two ago: a working group on telematics and tracking was set up. However, especially smaller and midsize companies don’t have the same resources like the »big lines«. During first meetings of the working group, it became clear, that there is so much technology, »but we would really like to have a basic guide for the different types of technologies and what it all means, because we are not experts but on the other hand we need to know more about it.« »Significant complexity« Commencing with a glossary of many of the different industry terms and acronyms that are frequently used, the guidelines go on to provide a background of the way that the industry has developed over the past decade. »The evolution from ›wired‹ to ›wireless‹ has provided great opportunities – but adds significant complexity, because of the wide range of communication technologies available, how they are used around the world in different countries and communication issues with containers on vessels«, the COA emphasizes. In addition, some of the issues for tracking dry freight containers are covered, including data flow, required communication frequency, battery life (and installation cost), power consumption, sensor technology requirements and compatibility with vessel partners. Issues for reefer container communication are also 30 HANSA International Maritime Journal 10 | 2019

Schifffahrt | Shipping tackled – including landside transit, onboard vessels, global use, telematics technology. The final section covers API – Application Programming Interface. The guidelines explain that this needs to be integrated and agreed across the industry to ensure data can be transmitted by any hardware provider and offer the same standardised information to data users – a project that the COA is working on. »Given the wide variety of communication technologies that will need to be considered, operators of reefers will need to carefully consider the capabilities of products being offered by different telematics suppliers to see which systems best meet their needs both today and over the coming years. They should also consider what options conference and partner shipping lines are utilizing and whether alternative systems are also compatible. Finally, operators will also need to consider API issues between differing systems to ensure greater flexibility and lower costs of operation over the long term«, it is said. Focus on refrigeration Also, a group of people is involved on the refrigeration machinery side or the reefer telematics side, so with the information the refrigeration machinery are providing back to shipping lines, said it would be useful to have a communication standard, the different technologies could actually communicate in a standard way between lines. »So that everybody is talking the same language«, Hicks says, adding that clarity is needed about who is actually selling what. A group has come together under the COA, saying they need to have a standard API (programming interface), a protocol. That’s one of the projects the COA is working on at the moment, to have a standard system for reefer telematics to communicate back to the shipping lines. In principle, it is an option that this standard might be the base for some kind of international code by organizations like Bimco, IMO or ISO. However, it is a common fact that these mills grind more slowly at this level in time. »So the people said lets better start with an organization like COA, which Blockchain is said to enhance efficiency of transport has the capability of putting together a group of people and managing it relatively quickly because some of these other organizations can take a little bit longer«, Hicks explains. The actual guide is more on an informational level. The people working on reefer telematics for example, have to agree first on an agreement and a document called a UDM (data model), then they may take it to ISO. The starting point was to try and get the standard API communication protocol for reefer telematics. Up to now, there was some feedback in a sense that no one said anything about this or that being wrong. But Hicks is sure, in the future, the parties involved will look at it again for an update: »I am sure, it could be improved, like any other publication. Maybe we can go a little bit more into detail or maybe we missed something, we will see.« Regarding blockchain technology, currently nothing is done through COA at the moment, not least because the IT experts meet in other groups, whereas COA is more the container management people. However, in the end, it might be useful to combine forces to have the equipment and the operations side integrated. »There are aspects that COA has specialized knowledge in«, he says, knowing that other initiatives are as well interested in equipment tracking. It was in June already, when the COA announced that its Telematics/Track Trace Work Group will take »the unprecedented step of providing an open standard (at the application layer level) to permit interoperability of telematics device data from the various solution providers in the maritime shipping sector.« © Selzer Open standard The open standard, which will start with refrigerated containers, but then be expanded to cover all container types, is supposed to »pave the way for all container owners to have multiple choices of vendors and platforms for their container fleets when choosing telematics systems.« This shall reduce risk and provide a more competitive and innovative marketplace of solutions to be explored and deployed. This open standard is planned to allow container owners to explore more complex IT, Artificial Intelligence and even Blockchain applications to bring desired efficiencies and cost savings to the members. HANSA International Maritime Journal 10 | 2019 31

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