Maritime Single Window

 Maritime Single Window


Maritime Single Window (MSW) mandatory as from 2024

Since 1 January 2024, all IMO Member States are required to use a single, centralized digital platform or "Maritime Single Window" (MSW) to collect and exchange information with ships when they call at ports. This streamlines procedures to clear the arrival, stay and departure of ships and greatly enhance the efficiency of shipping worldwide.

The amendments update the provisions of the FAL Convention on mandatory electronic data exchange in ports for ship clearance. The amendments to the annex of the FAL Convention will make it mandatory for public authorities to establish, maintain and use single window (SW) systems for the electronic exchange of information required on arrival, stay and departure of ships in ports. In addition, public authorities will have to combine or coordinate the electronic transmission of the data to ensure that information is submitted or provided only once and re-used to the maximum extent possible.

Guidelines for setting up a maritime single window (FAL.5/Circ.42/Rev.3)

The single window environment as set out in the FAL Convention should be implemented based on these Guidelines.

The Guidelines offer guidance to public authorities or Administrations responsible for developing or modifying environments for a Maritime Single Window (MSW) and Contracting Governments that encourage the introduction of MSW environments to the public authorities, etc.

The Guidelines for setting up a maritime single window (FAL.5/Circ.42/Rev.3) are available here.

IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business

The IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business consists of an IMO Data Set and an IMO Reference Model   supporting maritime regulatory or business processes relevant to international shipping, including the scope of the Maritime Single Window.

The IMO Reference Model serves as a guide for developing the ICT systems;  and  ensures that IT systems from different stakeholders can exchange data electronically with shared definitions and formats, supporting the harmonization of maritime single windows (MSWs), Port Community Systems (PCS) and of other ship-port data exchanges. More details about the IMO Compendium here.

IMO awareness raising campaign on MSW

Watch again the two events organized by the IMO Secretariat in partnership with IAPH and BIMCO to raise awareness of the deadline for implementation of the MSW and to share hands-on experience from Member States in the implementation process (a webinar in October 2022 and a symposium in January 2023).

New e-learning course on maritime single window implementation

The "Introductory e-learning course on implementation of the maritime single window (self-paced e-learning)" is based on the IMO Guidelines for setting up a maritime single window (FAL.5-Circ.42-Rev.3) and developed in collaboration with the World Maritime University (WMU) under IMO's Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP). The course elaborates on key aspects of the planning, implementation and operation of an MSW and provides an overview of available resources as well as case studies. In addition, the course aims to provide a good understanding of the importance of facilitation in maritime trade, and covers the concepts of electronic data exchange and the MSW in the context of ship reporting related to ships' arrival at, their stay in and their departure from port. There are six modules. 

Currently available in English, the course can be found on the IMO Learning Management System (LMS) platform which is accessed through the IMO website or via this link: IMO e-Learning. (To access IMO e-Learning courses on the LMS platform you need to register for an IMO web account via the IMO website.) The course can be paused and re-started at any time. After successfully completing it, participants can download and print a certificate of completion. 

GISIS Module on MSW

Member States are invited to complete the new GISIS module created to share information on maritime single windows implemented by Member States. The module is designed to facilitate the sharing of best practices and support the IMO Secretariat in monitoring the progress of SW implementation globally and to better target IMO technical assistance.

Resolution on recommended actions to accelerate the implementation of the maritime single window

The Committee adopted resolution FAL.16(47) on recommended actions to accelerate the implementation of the maritime single window which has been mandatory since 1 January 2024.

The resolution stresses the benefits of the implementation of single windows in the ports of Member States and:

  • Urges Governments to adopt, implement and effectively apply the maritime single window concept to ship and port clearance processes;
  • Invites Governments advanced in their maritime single window implementation to share know-how and experiences with States seeking assistance in developing their own maritime single window;
  • Calls on Governments to share the lessons learned and expand from build on the benefits of implementing maritime single windows, such as improving safety and efficiency of maritime operations, strengthening supply chain resilience and reduction of emissions;
  • Encourages Governments to utilize the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business when developing electronic information exchange systems as far as practically possible to ensure harmonization and interoperability across systems and stakeholders; and;
  • Invites Governments to provide detailed information on their implementation of the single window concept in GISIS to facilitate the access to best practices by interested Member States/parties.

Guidelines on authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services

These Guidelines provide general requirements for a digital system or platform that can be used to provide authentication, integrity and confidentiality in digital information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services (FAL.5/Circ.46). These requirements are developed primarily for information exchanges related to the ship, its passage through international and national waters and its port calls. For information exchanges that rely on VHF Data Exchange System (VDES), appendix 3 (Guidelines to signature system in an international shipping environment) and appendix 4 (Guidelines to low-bandwidth communication systems) provides the general requirements for signature systems to be used in VDES context. 

The Guideline on authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services (FAL.5/Circ.46) are available here.

Ship to shore operational data exchange and just in time port operations 

In 2023, the FAL Committee approved the Guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls (FAL.5/Circ.52).  These guidelines are intended to provide guidance on the implementation of an electronic and automated exchange of operational data between a ship and a port.  The guidelines can facilitate a uniform way for implementation of the Just In Time (JIT) arrival concept, extending its benefits to vessel traffic service centres to ensure safe and efficient traffic flows, and assisting the port industry in better planning and organizing port operations, and eventually optimizing the complete logistic chain.

The Guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls (FAL.5/Circ.52) can be found here .

IMO project of Maritime Single Window in Antigua and Barbuda 

Based on its experience in electronic facilitation of maritime trade, Norway provided in-kind and financial support to implement a maritime single window system in Antigua and Barbuda. The project was implemented in 19 months (11 months of development, 6 months of testing and 4 months of transition since October 2018).

The source code developed for the system established in Antigua and Barbuda is available to other interested Member States, in particular, Small Island Developing States (SIDS). This can assist them in complying with the new mandatory requirement for electronic information exchange in the FAL Convention, to reduce the administrative burden and increase the efficiency of maritime trade and transport. 

Member States interested in the source code or the project in general are encouraged to contact the Secretariat if they wish to obtain further details.

Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project 

SWIFT project pic.jpg

The Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project is a collaboration between IMO and Singapore aimed to develop an MSW system to allow electronic submission, through one single portal, of all information required by various Government agencies when a ship calls at a port.

On 15 March 2021, IMO issued a call for expressions of interest from countries with a medium-sized port to take part in the SWiFT Project to establish an efficient digitalized system for electronic exchange of information in ports to fulfil pre-arrival, in-port and pre- departure declarations that are compliant with data standards stated in the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic business (IMO Compendium) (Circular Letter No.4391). Following the evaluation of applications, IMO and Singapore selected the Port of Lobito (Angola) to participate in the pilot project in October 2021. The implementation of specific activities commenced in November 2021.

In January 2023, at the request of the Angolan Agência Marítima Nacional (AMN), IMO conducted a mission to Angola, as part of IMO's technical assistance to support the SWiFT Project. The mission included meetings with the Port of Lobito, Port of Luanda, and other relevant stakeholders, such as the National Trade Facilitation Committee and Angolan Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Transport, Industry and Commerce. Supported by IMO's appointed consultant in Angola, the mission enabled IMO to better understand the work situation on the ground in Angola.

To facilitate user training, Angolan representatives were invited to Singapore for a business process study trip, where different groups of stakeholders such as ship agents and the relevant approving authorities, could try out the system and provide feedback on the components that were already developed.

In preparation of the handing over of the system, a three-day virtual User Acceptance Test (UAT) was conducted from 13 to 15 November 2023.

To commemorate the successful development of the MSW system and to mark the completion of the project, a handover ceremony was conducted on 20 November 2023 in the Port of Lobito. The handover ceremony was attended by representatives from MPA, the Port of Lobito, AMN and IMO.

Further details can be found here.


In light of the dramatic increase in the use of digitalized systems across the maritime sector, the FAL Committee has considered the facilitation aspects of protecting the maritime transport network from cyber threats, including the need to address particular risks to maritime single windows, processes for electronic certificates and data exchange between ships and shore, pre-arrival information based on the Facilitation Convention and processes involving ship-port interface.

IMO guidance includes Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management (MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3/Rev.2) to address cyber risks in the maritime domain and Resolution MSC.428(98) on Maritime Cyber Risk Management in Safety Management Systems, encouraging shipping companies to address cyber risks in their safety management systems.

Leading industry stakeholders made an effort to establish Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ship, providing an overarching scope of nature in relation to cyber security.

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The Committee at its forty-eighth session, discussed the issue of cybersecurity in relation to MSW and called for Member States to develop and operate their MSWs in a cybersecure and resilient way. 

The Committee invited interested Member States and international organizations to contact the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH) to prepare the proposal for a new output on the issue to be considered at FAL 49 which could include proposed amendments to the FAL Convention to establish mandatory cybersecurity measures when developing mandatory Maritime Single Windows and the development of a model law on cybersecurity with an explanatory note.

Industry survey on the current state of digitalization within ports and new output on the Development of a comprehensive strategy on maritime digitalization

The Committee noted the findings of an industry survey on the current state of digitalization within ports. Of the total respondents, 40% were unaware of the IMO regulations in the FAL Convention mandating MSW systems worldwide. In 64% of the port calls made by the respondents, port authorities were still requiring either paper submissions or a mix of paper and digital submissions. On average, respondents spent more than three hours (191 minutes) preparing and submitting the necessary documents required at every single port call. 

The survey indicated a need for standardized and harmonized digital systems across ports globally, given the wide range of different port call interfaces and documentation among Member States, as well as the lack of IT infrastructure on many ships that would enable more efficient data exchange with ports. 

The Committee agreed to continue discussions on the development of an overarching IMO strategy on digitalization at the next session, under a new output at FAL 49 (subject to Council's endorsement), and the recommendations from the survey will be discussed under the new output "Development of a comprehensive strategy on maritime digitalization".