MSC Digital Talks Ep.2: Digitalization and Trade Logistics, the UN Perspective


MSC Digital Talks Ep.2: Digitalization and Trade Logistics, the UN Perspective


In the second episode of our #MSCDigitalTalks series, MSC’s CDIO Andre Simha spoke to Jan Hoffmann, Head of Trade Logistics at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), about the impact of recent advances of digitalization on global trade.

The Trade Logistics department at UNCTAD lies at the very heart of international trade. The organization produces statistics, research and impact assessments for the International Maritime Organization (IMO); provides a forum for member states to debate new policies; and, helps them to implement global standards to make trade more efficient through capacity building, training and on-the-ground advisory services. Unsurprisingly, digitalization plays a vital role at each stage.

In this episode, Jan shares that the use of digital solutions advanced exponentially during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of a sudden, UNCTAD found that a lot of the digital trade initiatives it was working on became not only more welcome but also much more in demand.

" People in the past loved to touch paper and have all these complicated procedures, they now realize it's actually not such a bad thing to move towards electronic payment, single windows, pre-arrival processing automation, trade information portals. "

Jan Hoffmann Head of Trade Logistics,

Digital collaboration is key to digital success

UNCTAD believes in the importance of collaborating with international organizations to standardize digitalization initiatives across global trade and logistics. The private sector does a great job at innovating digital solutions, explains Jan, but for digitalization to be successful it also requires the implementation of public global standards, such as those of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (CEFACT), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Customs Organization (WCO) and others. With the support of those international organizations, even small players, small companies and developing countries can benefit from digitalization equally. 

Process optimization is critical to this success, not least because it supports the goals of the energy transition, arguably the most important transition that the shipping industry is facing today. To reach the target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from shipping, digitalization will be as important as alternative energy and new fuel technologies. Jan gives as examples, port call optimization, which can ensure that vessels travel at an optimal speed, as opposed to racing to dock only to wait in port, and pre-arrival processing, which can increase efficiency by making life easier for both shippers and customs authorities.

About MSC Digital Talks

In each episode, MSC’s CDIO André Simha speaks to a different leader or expert about the future of digitalisation, innovation and technology. The series is part of our efforts to highlight the benefits of digitalisation in container shipping and to promote collaboration and industry standards across the supply chain.

Follow #MSCDigitalTalks on LinkedIn to watch the latest episodes and join the conversation. 

Links to previous episodes

MSC Digital Talks Episode #1: Driving MSC's Digital Evolution in France and Beyond