App in development to auto-generate port forms

Ship connectivity. Credit: Getty Images

Intended to ease the burden on ship masters and make port administration easier, PortForms is an app that has been created to auto-generate all the forms required upon entry to port, such as the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO’s) FAL forms and (non)-European port forms. Created by Henk Eijkenaar and in development with MaraSoft, the app is currently being developed for professional use on ships world-wide with the aim of being released in 2020. They intend to bring the app to the attention of the IMO, as well.

While the introduction of standardised forms was intended to regularise and cut down on the amount of administrative form filling required before entering a port, such as the IMO FAL forms, these are largely not used in Europe. “After the IMO published the FAL forms, I thought I would not need the programme anymore as all ports would be using the IMO FAL forms. Soon I found out that a lot of countries and ports still continue to use their own forms and when the EU came up with the so called ‘single window’ system, I found that the FAL forms were out of use in Europe and even more forms emerged,” Eijkenaar said.

Introduced in 2019, the ‘single window’ system requires that all information required by public authorities regarding the arrival, stay, and departure of ships, people, and cargo, be submitted electronically via a single portal and without duplication. Despite reaching out to the EU committee regarding his app, as well as the problems of the ‘single window’ system, the committee member he spoke with rejected his suggestions. As a consequence, the app is being developed to address some of the problems that persist with ports using distinct forms as well as the lack of duplication necessitated by the ‘single window’ system.

The programme will be such that ‘static’ or unchanging data such as the vessel’s names, dimensions, its IMO number, and company details will be automatically added to the forms, whereas ‘dynamic’ or changing data such as port details, the crew, and bonded stores can be added by hand. The app will be such that it can be used offline while maintaining an online database used to update new port forms as they come in. Using the database, such forms will have static data automatically filled in with the rest left for manual input. The forms can be printed out as well as sent by email.

The process of developing such an app is expensive and Eijkenaar notes that he continues to look for sponsors. “As soon as the software is on the market, it will pay for itself as the software company will sell it to the shipping companies together with a maintenance fee,” he said. While the app itself is similar to another developed a while ago, Eijkenaar notes that his app is far more developed and thus distinct.