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UN/CEFACT standards key to automate information flows along digital trade and transport ‎corridors in Eastern Europe and beyond

The automation of information flows along digital trade and transport corridors has the potential to strengthen supply chains and help countries deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since May 2019, UNECE and its partners promoting trade facilitation in Ukraine, as well as Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Lithuania, together with sectorial and regional organizations, have been working to align sets of data for multimodal transport to the UN/CEFACT semantic standards and reference data models. Work culminated at an online seminar on 27-29 April 2010, Multimodal Transport Data Sharing, Digital Transport Corridors and Trade Facilitation. This was the tenth annual “Odessa seminar”. Participating agencies included: UNECE, with its subsidiary body the UN Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), the Government of Ukraine, the PLL 33-35 LLC port community system in Odessa and the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA), other countries and organizations, such as FIATA, the International Railway Transport Committee (CIT), and the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (GUAM).

During the seminar, experts reviewed possibilities for aligning trade and transport document and data exchange with the UN/CEFACT standards and reference data models. They identified next steps to collaborate on such documents as the electronic railway consignment note (CIM/SMGS) or the FIATA Bill of Lading, so that data is exchanged among documents and processes in the maritime, railway and road modes of transport, using the same underlying semantic standards.

Mr. Ivan Petrov, Senior Vice President of FIATA noted “FIATA’s will to work with the team of UNECE to promote the digital negotiable multimodal-transport FIATA Bill of Lading as part of the UN/CEFACT format”.

The Deputy Secretary General of the International Rail Transport Committee (CIT), Mr Erik Evtimov, suggested building synergies between UN/CEFACT and the work on the electronic CIM/SMGS railway consignment note and additional documents. These can be added to the standards for the electronic road consignment note eCMR, already prepared by UN/CEFACT. The Ukrainian participants reported that the PPL33-35 port community system (one of the success stories associated with the Odessa seminars) has achieved the possibility of clearing goods in a truck in the port, without the need for the driver to leave the cabin.

Work will continue to complete standardization of a package of documents accompanying goods in different modes of transport. Last week’s seminar was a key milestone for experts to take stock of work done on the eCMR road consignment note. Participants called upon implementers to use the UN/CEFACT standard schemas and business requirement specifications developed by UN/CEFACT. Participants also reviewed possibilities to develop standards for other documents, such as the railway consignment note CIM/SMGS based on the same semantic standards. Experts discussed the role of Port Community Systems and Trusted Networks in providing reliable data sharing for international trade and transport. And they noted progress in the implementation of blockchain technologies by port community systems in Ukraine and Israel.

Ms. Sue Probert, chairperson of UN/CEFACT, expressed her satisfaction with the increased interest in data and document harmonization. “UN/CEFACT tools can offer a concrete contribution to facing the COVID-19 crisis and supporting the subsequent economic recovery. UN/CEFACT is willing to collaborate with other organizations to use its standards and reference data models to build seamless data exchange between modes of transport and with regulatory authorities. Projects supported by development partners may include a requirement to use UN/CEFACT standards in the name of the increased need for harmonization and standardization in international trade and transport data exchange.

Participants also stressed the importance of sub-regional organizations and initiatives, as in the framework of GUAM or the corridor Black-Sea – Baltic Sea, for digital corridors and interoperability of trade and transport information systems. They welcomed the suggestion to organize one of the next meetings on interoperability of Single Window and Port Community Systems in Baku, Azerbaijan.

All presentations and the recommendations of the seminar will be uploaded on the web page of the seminar at https://www.unece.org/index.php?id=54275