Container line group maps data flow standards

Container line group maps data flow standards

Data standards initiatives in the liner shipping industry have often been stymied by a lack of market motivation, but the migration to digital processes is provided new impetus for the latest such effort. Photo credit:

A body of container lines banding together to develop data standards for industry over the weekend released its first set of recommended data flows to undergird the movement of cargo, containers, and vessels.

The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), announced in November and formalized in April, includes five founding members — Maersk, CMA-CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and Ocean Network Express (ONE) — and four further members — Evergreen Line, HMM, Yang Ming, and Zim Integrated Shipping Services. The association is designed to align data formats and information sharing across industry participants.

The association’s members have “mapped the processes commonly used in container shipping from carrier booking to container return to create a common view across the industry,” DCSA COO Henning Schleyerbach wrote in a blog. “The ambition is that carriers will start using this standard already today and will align to it when delivering further digitalization and standardization initiatives in the industry in the future.”

Data and process blueprint

DCSA is calling its first release of standards the Industry Blueprint (or IBP 1.0). The standards documents include data and process flows governing the journey of a specific shipment, from booking request to shipment closing, for different types of cargo (including dry container, reefer, and hazardous cargo).

The second group of standards covers the provision of containers, from nominating an available box to complying with the verified gross mass (VGM) container weight regulation to tracking the container. The third group applies to the movement of vessels, including stowage planning, managing customs manifests, and communicating departure and arrival times.

The process and data flows mapped out in the document closely resemble those shown to by individual carriers in briefings with their technology departments. The key to DCSA’s initiative, however, is ensuring those process flows are technically the same and not similar. That, in theory, would enable shipping lines to ease the burden of shippers and freight forwarders in migrating toward products that digitize shipping processes or flows of information.

That system interoperability is considered key by software providers in speeding the adoption of such products. André Simha, chief information officer at MSC and DCSA chairman, said at TPM 2019 in Long Beach in March that agreeing on data standards would allow container lines to individually develop their own digital products for shippers that could be used across the carrier community, and thus wouldn’t be dependent on transactions only with a single container line. 

The DCSA blueprint includes a glossary of terms, a process catalog, and the three journey process maps.

Contact Eric Johnson at and follow him on Twitter: @LogTechEric.