Ports and Logistics

Container facilities get the airport code touch

Like airports have codes such as LAX or HKG, container facilities now have a standardised 9-letter identifying code as of today.

The Bureau International des Containers (BIC) and the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) today announced completion of their collaboration to standardise the codes used to identify facilities such as depots, container yards, M&R vendors and other supply chain container facilities. Thanks to the active participation by DCSA member ocean carriers as well as several of the largest leasing companies, the organisations have achieved a clean, machine-readable database of over 11,000 facilities in 160 countries. Each facility in the database now has a structured address, GPS coordinates and a 9-character BIC Facility Code assigned to it that can be easily consumed by existing IT systems to facilitate adoption.

Our industry’s data silo mentality has rapidly given way to a new appreciation of standardisation

Machine learning techniques were used to sanitise and align nearly 30,000 facility codes from 10 major carriers and lessors, resulting in harmonised facility names, addresses, GPS coordinates, and the standardised code the industry was looking for. DCSA Track & Trace standards, for example, now refer to the BIC Facility Code to identify places for supply chain events without ambiguity.

The API, currently available on SwaggerHub, will enable supply chain participants to ensure their systems are utilising a unique, standardised code for every container facility. Those wishing to host their own version can subscribe to automatic synchronous updates to ensure they are always up to date. In addition, the API serves both the BIC Facility Code and the SMDG Ocean Terminal code lists, meaning the industry can access a one-stop API for the 11,000+ BIC Facility Codes and 900+ SMDG Ocean Terminal Codes.

Looking ahead, geo-features such as geo-fencing coordinates are planned, which will something that ought to prove useful for operators of smart containers or assets looking to automatically confirm the facility in which a container is located, or to enable location-based automation.

“Over the last few years our industry’s data silo mentality has rapidly given way to a new appreciation of standardisation and the efficient sharing of data. This new focus has allowed us to conduct a global facility code harmonisation we have long wished to complete, thanks in large part to the DCSA’s assistance in actively engaging the major carriers. Moreover, the participants are eager to embrace the API, which will ensure the harmonised codes are widely available and in sync going forward. We see this as an important enabler for digitalization efforts underway in the industry,” said Douglas Owen, secretary general of the BIC.

“At the outset of DCSA, our chairman André Simha pointed to the non-standard facility code as a simple yet effective example of the kind of standardisation where the industry needs to play catch up with other industries, such as air travel, which utilise a standard airport code worldwide,” said Thomas Bagge, CEO DCSA. “With the standardisation of the BIC Facility Code and the API, the container transportation industry is one step closer to this goal. This is a good example of the foundational work required to make digital transformation a reality in container shipping, and we are pleased to be a part of this important collaboration with BIC.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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