Digital transformation in transport logistics chains. How much we are ready in the Baltic Sea Region?
Prepared and sponsored by the Project: “eCMR in ND region”, Project ID: NDPTL Project 001-2021
Transport and logistics sector being a significant economic player is still long-overdue in digital transformation. Change is of utmost importance to shorten the delivery time and reduce empty mileage thus decreasing negative impact to climate change. While legal acts initiated by international organizations contribute significantly to accelerate digital processes in transport and logistics supply chains, support funds such as CEF, NDPTL, BSR Interreg and others offer opportunities to test the new solutions before larger scale investments.
United Nations were the first to introduce international electronic consignment notes (eCMR) protocol, which entered into force in June 2011. This document was dedicated to standardize road transport paperwork for the use of electronic means. Multiple digital solutions for freight transportation started emerging thus challenging smooth exchange of information. The electronic freight transport information (eFTI) Regulation has been approved by the EU and will enter into force in August 2025. Now, a number of support funds encourage EU countries to get ready to integrate digital solutions for air, rail, maritime and road transport to exchange freight information by digital means with their authorities as well as cross-border.
Northern Dimension Partnership for Transport and Logistics (NDPTL) Support Fund hosted by Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) nominated DigiTech sector Association InfoBalt to lead the Project: “eCMR in ND Region” (further – NDPTL Project). The project is meant to identify and propose solutions how to implement and use the standardized digital version of the eCMR as well as test, disseminate information, agree among countries and further develop prototypes of Diginno, DinnoCap and DIGINNO-Proto projects. The aim is to ensure compatibility between the digital tools implementing eCMR and the forthcoming EU eFTI regulation.
Multiple stakeholders are involved into the project but the list is extended with numerous target groups responsible for eFTI adoption or those which will be effected by the new Regulation. In Vilnius, on the 20th October 2022, during the Transport Innovation Forum, one of the NDPTL Project Partner Transport Innovation Association invited industry and government leaders to discuss if the Baltic Sea Region is ready to go paperless; and if the eCMR solution is still applicable after Russia and Belarus has been excluded from international logistic chains.
“The world has never stopped and logistics chains need to be as flexible as never before to perform a smooth shift to new markets such as Moldova, Balkan countries and Central Asia, where paperless freight transportation is in high demand as well as the advanced expertise of the operations of the ND region” says NDPTL Project Lead and Head of ITS Group at InfoBalt Egidijus Skrodenis. His statement is supported by Ms. Ulrika Hurt, R&D and policy expert on eFTI and digital supply chains, saying that “eCMR and eFTI must co-exist and create a joint ecosystem even though eFTI does not include eCMR and eCMR represents a wider geographical range”.
Discussing the financial instruments, all participants of the NDPTL project session agreed that every stakeholder should grant digitization as it is a driving force to create added value. Mr. Rimantas Žylius, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Lithuania, stressed that digitization in transport is not only about IT or GDP in transport sector, it is about the competitiveness of overall country or region’s economy. According to Ms. Hurt, EU Commission foresees Governments to take care of their own developments of digital gates as well as the private service providers yet offering some budget to support the measures available for both public and private sectors. Mr. Martynas Serapinas, CIO at Girteka, reflected as follows: “Large companies should develop their own agnostic technology by watching, learning and doing. To reuse what has already been developed is a correct way to move towards results efficiently”.
Referring to the question if the Baltic Sea Region is ready, it is worth saying that Lithuanian, Estonian and Finnish companies have already started to develop their own eFTI platforms, which will be the early birds assisting to the EU Commission itself to draft and develop the leading documents. Having said that, Mr. Egidijus Skrodenis, being the Lead of the NDPTL project, believes that the region is ready before eFTI with the support of the NDPTL and other support funds that enhances North-Baltic-Polish eCorridor implementation where the expertise has a strong background. In addition to that, paperless transport is a high level topic on the Baltic Sea Region agenda. For instance, Memorandum of Intent has been endorsed by the Baltic-Nordic Minsters, bilateral Memorandums of Understanding are being signed by and between ministers and stakeholders, new initiatives such as ready4eFTI.eu emerge.
The European Commission estimated that the reduced administrative burden of using digital documents will save shippers up to 27 billion Euros over the next 20 years. 1 The new Regulation and the funds supporting to implement it, will increase the interoperability of all modes of transport across the borders thus increasing the efficiency as well as reducing the CO2 emissions.
1European Commission Staff Working Document: Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment (SWD(2018) 184 final