All major shipowners make use of world wide data exchange resources and all major ports use computer programs for operations management. Yet the integrated management of all these information flows has not kept pace.
In Europe there is considerable development of ‘open’ data exchange systems which are accessible to all transport and port operators, big and small. Speed of transport and cost control, as well as safety, are the aim. The European Communities’ involvement supports economic development, particularly in peripheral regions or areas facing difficulties.
The Southern Europe Port Communities, aware of the importance of this issue, decided to constitute a European economic interest group named ‘Euromar’, whose aim is to enhance the use of new information technologies.
The European Commission’s Transport Directorate General (DGVII) and Euromar have therefore embarked on a life-size experience, the MARNET research and development project.
The two-year MARNET project, which commenced in January 1997, has three complementary objectives:
- To implement data processing systems in small organisations.
- To exchange intermodal transport documents from door to door among all the partners.
- To set up a goods tracking service in the short sea shipping sector with the control of the movement of dangerous goods transport efficiency in mind
Specifically, the project aims to:
- Help simplify the procedures for all port communities connected to the MARNET network, either directly or via another network (such as Eurotrans Portnet), by providing harmonised procedures that will be used by all MARNET users regardless of their physical location.
- Combine existing systems and technologies to broaden their usage from local to regional and inter-regional level.
- Make a new set of global enabling services available to the existing systems.
The specific tasks of MARNET are:
- to identify the user requirements for the MARNET network and assess them in the User Requirements Workshop;
- to design the MARNET System according to the identified requirements;
- to develop a prototype system for evaluating the feasibility of the maritime information network fully implementing a representative group of services and creating reusable building blocks for access from non-automated ports;
- to trial the prototype by providing operational access to these services to big, medium and small ports regardless of their current information system;
- to evaluate the result of the trial and define the MARNET Expansion Plan.
The main result of MARNET is an operating prototype of a real-time logistics information network for multi-modal transport operators in different regions. The MARNET network provides open and globally accessible information services with the aim of enhancing the competitiveness of the European and Mediterranean maritime ports. MARNET focused its analysis on the ten services considered the most interesting by transport operators and port authorities:
- The EU port single desk management service proposes a harmonised and common interface through which relevant documents can be submitted electronically to European port authorities.
- The unified dangerous goods service creates unified procedures for electronically submitting dangerous goods notifications.
- The ship tracing service provides the current position and route for any given vessel.
- The manifest interchange service allows users to enter manifest information, and generate manifest data in a standard format according to a cheap and easy access thanks to the Internet.
- The commercial information interchange service allows agents-shipping lines, logistics operators, shipping agents, etc.-to offer their services via html pages.
- The port consultation service provides information about ports' and terminals' characteristics and their operative situation.
- The statistics interchange service collects information on goods and passengers transported and data on the movement of vessels for each port.
- The Port Cargo Community System in a small port provides services dedicated to information processing and interchange for small-sized ports.
- The manifest short sea shipping service sets up the exchange of short sea manifests between North and South European ports by means of EDI.
- The exchange inter-port service provides inter-port communications.
The potential of these services has been evaluated by a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.
The MARNET project is expected to have substantial benefits to transport operators and port authorities in the field of data interchange. The project's approach can:
- help simplify the procedures for all port communities connected to the MARNET network, by providing harmonised procedures that will be used by all MARNET users regardless of their physical location;
- combine existing systems and technologies to broaden their usage from local to regional and inter-regional level;
- make a new set of global enabling services available to the existing systems;
- provide all port communities, whatever their existing information system today, with common access to all these services.