Background

Improved data transparency can help smooth supply chains for ocean cargo, the Federal Maritime Commission heard at a recent meeting, but only if a more consistent set of terms is developed. The meeting was part of an FMC initiative to examine ways to improve information flow, data management, and transparency, one of several measures the Commission is undertaking to address port congestion and other issues that have slowed the transportation of imported and exported goods.

“A container in motion creates information, but that information is either not being shared or it is not being shared effectively,” said Commissioner Carl Bentzel, who is heading the initiative. For example, said FMC chief economist Kristen Monaco, common data elements such as ports, vessels, and even countries are reported inconsistently from system to system.

As a result, Bentzel said, “addressing and resolving the lack of consistent taxonomy and lexicon—classifications and terms—is key to creating an environment where everyone is using the same language and systems can ‘speak’ to each other. Getting to that point will take the cooperation and collaboration of many parties, but I am confident motivation exists to use data to make our maritime supply chain more efficient.”

Toward that end, Bentzel said that over the next six months the initiative will focus on three objectives: (1) cataloging the status quo in maritime data storage and access across the transportation chain, (2) identifying key gaps in data definitions and classification, and (3) developing recommendations for common data naming, storing, and transmitting standards as well as data access policies and protocols. The initiative’s findings will be shared at a data summit the FMC is planning to hold in spring 2022.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg is continuing a campaign to advocate with federal regulators and lawmakers on solutions to the supply chain crisis. For more information on this campaign and how to participate, please contact Ned Steiner at (202) 730-4970 or via email.

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