Facilitation (FAL) – enhancing the free flow of trade by ship
8 April 2019 – the electronic data exchange deadline
Amendments to the Facilitation Convention were adopted in 2016 and they entered into force on 1 January 2017 (read more here).
The FAL Convention amendments make it mandatory for ships and ports to exchange FAL data electronically from 8 April 2019. There is provision for a transitional period of at least 12 months, during which paper and electronic documents are allowed.
The FAL Convention encourages use of the so-called “single window” concept in which all the many agencies and authorities involved exchange data via a single point of contact. The maritime single window system allows for the streamlining of procedures, via electronic systems, for provision of information related to the arrival, stay and departure of the ship itself, and data on its crew, passengers and cargo, in accordance with the requirements of the FAL Convention.
IMO has been supporting Member States to prepare for electronic data exchange, with national and regional seminars and work shops.
A project is underway in Antigua and Barbuda to develop a maritime single window. Following the installation of the first, basic system platform in 2018, testing and implementation has begun. If successful, the system, developed by Norway, could potentially benefit other countries of the Caribbean region and be rolled out to other regions of the world.
What is FAL?
When a ship comes in to port it may be the end of a voyage but it’s just the beginning of a whole range of administrative tasks that need to be done.
Customs declarations for cargo and ships’ stores; immigration clearance for crew and passengers and their baggage; import and export permits: these are just the tip of the iceberg. And when the ship leaves, it’s the same process all over again.
This is what we call Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic – or FAL for convenience.
Why does it matter?
FAL matters because, if it goes smoothly, shipments move more quickly, more easily and more efficiently. But if it goes badly, delays, inefficiencies and extra costs are inevitable.
Statistics show that countries with more efficient FAL infrastructure have better import and export figures. There’s a clear link between reducing red tape and competitiveness.
Efficient trade facilitation can help reduce transport costs and thereby contribute to sustainable development.