North Sea Port and Antwerp to release digital inland solution

Barge ship with shipping containers sailing on lake Ketelmeer in flevoland, The Netherlands.

North Sea Port will collaborate with the Flemish Waterways plc, the Port of Antwerp, the Port of Oostende, the Port of Zeebrugge, the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services, and the Joint Nautical Management to digitise and standardise cargo data sharing on Belgium’s inland waterways.

In a statement, the parties said they will introduce a system call SWINg which will allow skippers and inland shipping companies to submit a single, digital report on their route, cargo and other data to travel.

Currently, skippers and barge operators must repeatedly report (the same) travel, cargo and ship data to every authority they encounter on their route.

“While one authority allows this in digital format, another requires it through VHF radio, and in some cases, one even has to disembark to submit a form at the shipping desk,” said Chris Danckaerts, managing director of De Vlaamse Waterweg nv.

“The new reporting platform SWINg – an acronym for Single Window for Inland Navigation – puts an end to this extensive administrative work.”

The statement said the skipper or inland shipping company uses existing or new software to submit the data to the reporting platform, which automatically forwards it to all the shipping and port authorities on the vessel’s route.

After all, the reporting platform and the authorities’ own digital applications are already coordinated. This means that the reporter only has to submit the data once, digitally.

SWINg, according to the parties offers administrative simplification, while making inland shipping even safer and more efficient. Reporting less often means that the skippers have fewer distractions and the risk of accidents decreases because people no longer have to go ashore.

Additionally, the shipping and port authorities will be able to better estimate the risks of incidents and respond more quickly if an incident does occur.

They have advance information about the types of ships and cargo that are in the port or on the waterway. The reporting platform will also permit better planning of ships’ routes. Bridge and lock operations planning is optimized.

Software suppliers are making existing reporting packages compatible with the new SWINg reporting platform. Those who already report digitally will not need to install any new software on board. 

In view of the upcoming introduction of mandatory digital reporting, those who do not yet use software will benefit from doing so. The parties’ current target is to make this mandatory for ships with dangerous goods from 1 January 2021, and shortly afterwards for other vessels.

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