MARINA introduces blockchain-powered system to enhance maritime services

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Philippines‘ shipping and seafaring regulator, is preparing to launch an innovative online system aimed at improving services for Filipino seafarers and other maritime industry stakeholders. This new initiative promises to significantly upgrade the efficiency and reliability of maritime service delivery.

Blockchain-enabled certification system

On June 14, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Maritime Affairs, Elmer Sarmiento, announced the introduction of MARINA’s Blockchain-Enabled System for Transactions (BEST). This cutting-edge system is designed to facilitate real-time processing and updating of applications online.

“It (BEST) will allow MARINA clients to pay online, track and update their transactions, and offer notifications for certificate expiration,” Sarmiento explained. Sarmiento said that the blockchain technology embedded in BEST ensures that the authenticity of documents can be easily verified, providing a robust solution for preventing fraud and enhancing transparency.

Benefits for the Philippine Coast Guard

The new system will also provide substantial benefits for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). According to Sarmiento, the PCG will be able to verify the authenticity of documents presented to it in real-time. This will significantly improve the efficiency of document checks and contribute to safer and more secure maritime operations.

Addressing passenger congestion with online ticketing

In addition to the blockchain-enabled certification system, the DOTr is advocating the implementation of an online ticketing and advance booking system for passenger ships. This initiative aims to alleviate the long queues and congestion that have been problematic, particularly during long weekends and holiday seasons.

The DOTr and MARINA are discussing making it compulsory for shipping lines to establish their own online ticketing systems, similar to those used in the aviation industry. This move is expected to streamline the ticket purchasing process, reduce wait times, and enhance passengers’ overall travel experience.

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Pushing for digitalization in the maritime industry

Sarmiento emphasized that these initiatives are part of a broader push toward digitalization within the maritime sector. According to the DOTr official, the agency is committed to modernizing the industry through technological advancements that improve service delivery and operational efficiency.

The shift to digital systems is anticipated to bring numerous benefits, including enhanced operational efficiency and reduced administrative burdens. By automating processes and leveraging blockchain technology, MARINA aims to provide its clients faster, more reliable services.

President’s mandate for a fully-digital Philippines

This development follows Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s directive to all government offices to digitize services. Since Marcos took office in 2022, he has instructed the government to swiftly digitalize essential services. Marcos emphasized the necessity of digitalization in the present day, stating that it is crucial for improving business processes and combating corruption. He pointed out that digitalization is not just a future goal but a current requirement. Government agencies must fully embrace digitalization to enhance both frontline services and backend functions.

He further explained that digitalization would support the government’s planning and decision-making processes by relying on data and scientific evidence. This shift towards digital services is seen as the most effective tool for improving business efficiency and reducing various forms of graft and corruption.

The need for legislative support and fair competition

During a forum organized by The Manila Times, MARINA Director Luisito de los Santos highlighted the complexity of the maritime industry and emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to modernization.

De los Santos emphasized that enhancing ship inspection protocols and supporting local shipyards with automation and digitalization are essential for ensuring safe navigation in domestic waters.

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He also highlighted the critical need for legislative backing to revise the country’s shipbuilding industry laws. These revisions aim to create a level playing field for local and multinational companies operating within economic zones. Such legislative updates are vital for empowering local shipyards to compete effectively and sustainably.

Streamlining domestic shipping routes

Meanwhile, Sarmiento also discussed efforts to streamline domestic shipping routes under the Public Service Act, which allows foreign shipping lines to operate in the country. He mentioned that MARINA is refining routing strategies for various types of routes, including missionary, regular, long haul, and short haul. Sarmiento noted that the participation of major international lines like CMA CGM and MSC could optimize container movement within the Philippines and enhance intra-Asian trade.

Sarmiento acknowledged the difficulties local shipbuilders face, who receive fewer incentives than their foreign counterparts. He highlighted the issue of tax-free services for foreign clients in ecozones, which creates an uneven competitive landscape.

Multifaceted approach

The modernization of domestic shipping in the Philippines requires a multifaceted approach that includes legislative support, fair competition, and appropriate incentives.

Efforts led by MARINA, the DoTr, and industry stakeholders are essential in overcoming the challenges posed by outdated infrastructure and unequal competition. By embracing innovation and updating regulatory frameworks, the maritime sector can enhance its efficiency, safety, and competitiveness, ultimately benefiting the entire nation.

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