Together for a stronger voice and combined expertise: integration of PROTECT group into International Port Community Systems Association


29 October 2019

The development and use of global, standardised electronic messaging across ports is taking a hugely significant step forward – with the news that the standards specialist group PROTECT is to be integrated into the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA).

These two influential organisations hold an unrivalled level of knowledge and experience in standardised and harmonised electronic information exchange. This important decision will enable global port standards development experts from both PROTECT and IPCSA to combine that knowledge and push forward with new innovations and advances.

From dangerous goods notification to berth service request messaging, the use of standardised, harmonised electronic information exchange underpins efficient port operations.

PROTECT was established in 1992 by six major ports in Europe, to harmonise and optimise electronic information exchange by means of standardised messages legally required in ports. Its participants include port authorities and Port Community System operators.

Although it started as an EU project, PROTECT is now recognised globally. It has responsibility for (amongst many) the development and maintenance of the IFTDGN dangerous goods notification message, the WASDIS waste disposal information message and the BERMAN berth services request message.

PROTECT will now become a working group within IPCSA. Jerome Besancenot, chairman of PROTECT, said: “PROTECT was formed to provide standardised EDI messages to facilitate trading between stakeholders and port authorities. In recent years we have seen an acceleration in the digitalisation process, so that we are not only talking about EDI but also about issues such as European and international Maritime Single Window, blockchain, smart containers and the Internet of Things. For PROTECT, dealing with every subject would be an obvious challenge. 

Photo: Jerome Besancenot

“There is already an overlap between PROTECT and IPCSA in terms of both work and membership; joining IPCSA will help us to be more proactive. Working together, PROTECT and IPCSA will be highly influential in working with national, regional and international decision makers, including on the IMO’s FAL group.”

Additionally, said Mr Besancenot: “Although we started out as a European group, for some years now PROTECT has been receiving requests from ports in Africa, America and elsewhere which want to work with us. As a small organisation, we didn’t have the capacity to deal with this. As part of IPCSA, that will change.”

He concluded: “I am very excited about this integration. It will be a rebirth of PROTECT group activity.”

The integration of IPCSA and PROTECT will be a clear example of ‘strength in numbers’, said IPCSA chairman Hans Rook. “We are bringing the two together for a stronger voice. Our combined expertise will be extremely valuable. As a working group within IPCSA, the PROTECT group will have a higher level of influence.”

Richard Morton, secretary general of IPCSA, said: “Within IPCSA, PROTECT will continue to focus on providing technical standards for EDI harmonisation. The difference is that PROTECT will be part of an international group, enabling it to be completely aligned with the key issues we must all deal with regarding international trading.

“Integrating PROTECT into IPCSA, and combining the expertise of both organisations, will ensure that the development of new standards in ports has a global reach. We are proud to be able to support PROTECT in building on the work it has been doing for nearly three decades. The need for standards will be identified and then developed in collaboration with international standards organizations such as the United Nation Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).”

  • The integration of PROTECT into IPCSA has been welcomed at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Julian Abril, Head of the Facilitation Section and Secretary of the FAL Committee, the IMO body responsible for the maintenance of the IMO Compendium of Facilitation and Electronic Business, said: “I would like to express my congratulations for the excellent news. This arrangement will allow experts to combine their efforts to standardise data and exchange software data, and the new synergies created with this agreement will be very positive for the international shipping community.”