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COVID priority containers could mitigate humanitarian crisis

Data sharing across the supply chain could prevent a COVID-19 catastrophe
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Data sharing across the maritime sector is vitally important to ensure economies and societies recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an insight published by a group of logistics and supply chain experts.

A system that could make shipping containers carrying essential goods a ‘COVID priority’ is just one of many solutions suggested in the article titled ‘Information Sharing Communities for Digitally Enabled Supply Chain Visibility’.

Authoring the piece and calling for more collaboration were Wolfgang Lehmacher, Operating Partner, Industrial Innovation Partners, Anchor Group joined Mikael Lind, Associate Professor and Senior strategic research advisor, Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and Andre´ Simha, CIO, MSC.

“There is a need for an attitudinal shift: Everyone needs to take responsibility for promoting data sharing, and all need to help establish simple and fair data sharing models,” the authors say.

“For every player there needs to be a benefit – a commercial or a social reward, or both. Only then can the true potential of data and information sharing be unleashed.”

Data sharing was already a necessity to cope with growing global demand and to make the transportation of goods more efficient.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a humanitarian imperative, according to the authors, as it has the potential to speed up the delivery of medicine and food to those most in need.

The number of people in danger of “food insecurity” globally has risen from 135 million at the start of 2020 and will reach 270 million by the end of the year, something the article attributes to “COVID-19 restrictions”. This could subsequently result in as much as 12,000 deaths per day.

This makes data sharing and transparency even more vital. Time-sensitive goods can be prioritised for transit and monitored up until it reaches its destination. Critical information such as temperature, transit times and weather conditions allow increased predictability and efficiency across the supply chain.

This could include marking a particular container a ‘COVID priority’, according to the authors, and allowing that cargo to bypass potential disruptions in the system on land, sea or in flight.

“With the right infrastructure in place,” the article reads, “a carrier could put such a container on deck, the terminal could off-load it first, customs could fast-track clearance or clear the container while still at sea.

“The port could even make sure all the traffic lights in the port are set to green for the haulier’s truck, etc.”

The maritime sector has made progress in data sharing and initiatives such as Port Community Systems work to unite stakeholders and encourage collaboration.

However, the authors insist the industry must go further. “Our call for action is for a collaborative effort to share data, under mutually agreed and fair sharing conditions. This is urgent for the future of our society, vulnerable communities, industry and not the least, our planet.”

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