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A World Awash With Data

Practically all of us know that we live in a world of “Big Data” but very few know the story of how data in the shipping industry has come about.

For those in the shipping industry, the 17th September 1987 was a huge turning point (although they may not be aware of it. This was the very first meeting of the SMDG committee. (Original Minutes Here). This small group of people have been responsible for developing all of the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) messages in use within the container shipping industry today. To name a few that stowage planners are aware of, they developed MOVINS, BAPLIE, COPRAR, TANSTA and TPFREP files.

The group currently consists of 53 members under the Chairman, Bruis van Driel (APM Terminals) and General Secretary Arthur Touzot (ATSea Consulting). Of those 53 members, only a handful are actively involved in the various subgroups that look at the development of new or existing EDI file types.

This is a quote from the SMDG website:


SMDG is a non-profit foundation, run by and on behalf of companies and organizations working in the maritime industry, like container terminals, ocean carriers and related companies and organizations. SMDG develops and promotes UN/EDIFACT EDI-messages for the Maritime Industry and is an official Global User Group, recognised by the UN/EDIFACT Board. Since its inception the group has held numerous meetings across the globe. The first was held in London in 1987, since then other locations have included Europe, Australia, China, Curacao, Dubai, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, U.S.A. The SMDG meetings occur twice yearly in April and October.

The original objective of the group was to agree a standard format for the exchange of ship stowage planning information. This became known as the BAPLIE message which defines the position of containers in a vessel. The initial development process was slow, reflecting the wide range of interests involved as well as their geographical spread. However, since implementation of the first version of BAPLIE its use has grown rapidly across the world. Most carriers and deep-sea container terminals are now dependent on its use for accurate and timely information. Experience has brought refinement and further development with the latest BAPLIE version 3.0 now being introduced. The advantages of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) have been underlined by BAPLIE implementation and the group has since looked at other operational messages for stowage instructions (MOVINS), the so called Container Messages and terminal performance reporting (TPFREP). These messages are now in use worldwide.


To put it very simply, over 4 BILLION EDI messages are sent per year. That equates to approximately 10 MILLION EDI messages per day, If it wasn’t for this small group of dedicated professionals, we would not be able to stow the likes of Maersk’s Triple E vessels because of the time it would take to generate the loadlists, COPRAR files, MOVINS and BAPLIE files.

Click HERE for a link to the SMDG website.

Click HERE for the 68th Meeting of the SMDG Committee minutes

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