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Commissioner Bentzel Hosts Inaugural Meeting of FMC Data Initiative

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Improved data transparency and increased information sharing can make an important difference in alleviating maritime supply chain congestion, but before that can happen, industry and the government must identify what terms and classifications people will agree to use in common when discussing the movement of an ocean container from origin to destination.

These were two of the key messages conveyed by experts in policy, shipping, supply chain, and data speaking at the December 7, 2021 inaugural meeting of a data transparency initiative being led by Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel.  The project is being undertaken at the direction of Chairman Daniel B. Maffei and will culminate next spring with a Data Summit.

“One of the few ways we can truly increase the capacity of the supply chain in this country to handle more ocean cargo is through better information flow, enhanced data management, and increased transparency.  Figuring out how to do this while maximizing benefits and minimizing costs is a rather Herculean task.  That is why I am so grateful to my Commissioner Carl Bentzel, for volunteering to take on this project.  We will be paying close attention to the meetings he will hold in the coming months and look forward to the findings he will share at the conclusion of his work,” said Chairman Maffei.

Commissioner Bentzel said he will focus his work on three key objectives: cataloging the status quo in maritime data, storage, and access across the transportation chain; identifying key gaps in data definitions/classification; and developing recommendations for common data standards and access policies/protocols.

“A container in motion creates information, but that information is either not being shared or it is not being shared effectively. Addressing and resolving the lack of consistent taxonomy and lexicon—classifications and terms—is key to creating an environment where everyone is using the same language and systems can ‘speak’ to each other.  Getting to that point will take the cooperation and collaboration of many parties, but I am confident motivation exists to use data to make our maritime supply chain more efficient. Over the coming six months, the data initiative I am leading will identify best practices for naming, storing and transmitting data, and develop a set of best practices to improve transportation efficiency,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

Presenting at today’s meeting were John Porcari, the Port Envoy for the Biden-Harris Administration; Lars Jensen, Chief Executive Officer of Vespucci Maritime; Brian Bumpass, Director of Logistics and Transportation for Brenntag North America, who also serves as the Chair of the FMC’s National Shipper Advisory Committee; and Dr. Kristen Monaco, Chief Economist, FMC.  Chairman Maffei, Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, Commissioner Michael A. Khouri, and Commissioner Louis E. Sola also participated in the event.

In her presentation, Ms. Monaco underscored the benefits of creating a foundation of common lexicon and taxonomy throughout the trade community and noted these are largely missing in the maritime data environment.  She pointed to inconsistencies in how common data elements such as ports, vessels, and even countries are reported from system to system.  Uniform lexicon and taxonomy are necessary to ensure efficient and accurate transmission of information between data users and are needed to better automate data sharing.

Commissioner Bentzel will next hold a meeting on December 14, 2021, from 2:00-3:00 PM (Eastern Time) where he will hear from dray truckers operating at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York, Charleston, Savannah, Miami, and Seattle.  The goal of these listening sessions is to identify key operational data, data gaps, data transmission requirements, and data access concerns.

The meeting will be virtual and the public is invited to watch via webstream.  Weekly meetings will recommence in January 2022.