To main content

Maritime Digital Transformation through International Cooperation in IMO FAL


Maritime transport can be said to be the original Intelligent Transport System (ITS), with anti-collision radar (ARPA) from around 1970, satellite communication from 1980, GPS from 1995, and position transponders (AIS) from 2000. However, since 2000, developments have been slower, until around 2015, when interest in digital solutions started to grow rapidly. This could be called "Maritime 4.0" as a response to "Industrie 4.0" in land-based industry.
Shipping is facing two important challenges: One is the need for decarbonization, which will have large consequences with respect to the cost and the physical handling of new fuel types. The other is a need for increased resilience as demonstrated by the significant trade disruption due to the "M/S Ever Given" incident in Suez, the COVID-19 epidemic, and the war in Ukraine.
Increased resilience and adaption to carbon-free fuels will require new technical solutions on the ships, but this will not be enough. Operational improvements will also be needed, including increased automation and general efficiency and safety improvements, in which a maritime digital transformation will be critical.
The digital transformation will not be possible without digitization of the information and digitalization of the processes using the information. Unless standards can be used, this can be very expensive for the industry. Also, if digitization and digitalization is based on open and international standards, and adopted by enough parties, it can create a digital ecosystem where it easier and less costly to develop completely new applications that enable the necessary digital transformation.
However, the maritime domain has some characteristics which makes the establishment of the digital ecosystem challenging. One problem is that it is very small, with only around 96 000 ships above 100 GT in international trade. Compared to several billion smartphones, it is obvious that we cannot rely on an "organic" convergence to common standards and an ecosystem. The other main issue is that ships travel all over the world and require the same standards in all ports they call on. Thus, the sector requires explicit international cooperation to develop the standards and ecosystem that enable the major digital transformation the maritime sector needs.
Due to the international and highly competitive nature of shipping, it is not easy to achieve this type of cooperation. However, in 2020 a major milestone was reached when IMO, ISO (International Organization of Standardization), WCO (World Customs Organization), and UNECE (United National Economic Commission to Europe) signed an agreement to jointly develop the IMO Compendium, including the IMO Data Reference Model, to harmonize data models between the organizations and to facilitate interoperability between their respective protocol standards. Initially, the aim was harmonization of reporting to the Maritime Single Window as defined in the FAL Convention. The scope has since then steadily increased and does now include operational issues as just in time arrival, ship certificates, and other functions and standards from several other organizations. Thus, the IMO Compendium has taken on the role as a focal point for harmonization of maritime digital standards and as key enabler of the digital ecosystem that will make the maritime digital transformation possible.




  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 322370
  • EC/H2020 / 859992
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 326679




  • SINTEF Ocean / Energi og transport

Presented at

World Ocean Forum 2022




25.10.2022 - 27.10.2022


Korea Association of Marine Industry



View this publication at Cristin