UN/EDIFACT Messages Developement in Transport Industry

UN/EDIFACT messages appearance initiated the formation of a global UN EDI standards organisation and this development has continued to progress from the inception of the UN/EDIFACT international standard to the present time. UN/EDIFACT messages structure is essential to the use of EDI in the transport sector. It was agreed and approved by the relevant authorities up to and including Working Party 4 (Trade Facilitation) of UN/ECE. Over the past five years these messages have been implemented by various communities in the six UN/EDIFACT regions. These existing implementations have, in most cases, developed in isolation and this has resulted in differing interpretations of the standard messages. In turn this has resulted in a lack of international synergy with regards to the use of codes, qualifiers, data elements, composites, segments, groups of segments and even the messages themselves.

The UN/EDIFACT Joint Message Development Group for Transport (JM4) has recognised that this lack of synergy represents a serious inhibitor to the growth of global electronic commerce. As the harmonisation of implementation guidelines of UN/EDIFACT messages was not a formal work task of the Joint Rapporteurs Team (JRT) meeting – its purpose was to establish and maintain message structures and data directories – the interested members of JM4 (Transport) formed an informal group to attempt to harmonise known message implementation guides and user manuals and to provide a basis for intending implementers to proceed with confidence.

In late 1994 and early 1995 the group met informally to make recommendations on how codes, qualifiers, elements, segments and messages should be used. The progress made by this relatively small group of experts (less than 20) encouraged the group to formally establish itself as the International Transport Implementation Guidelines Group (ITIGG). The aims and existence of ITIGG were announced after a meeting in Oakland, CA in July 1995. It was agreed that ITIGG would set itself the major objective of compiling and issuing a document in the first quarter of 1996 which would provide the principles and rules for the international implementation of electronic messages in the transport industry. This document which deals primarily with the maritime sector, represents the achievement of that objective.

The future objectives of ITIGG are to incorporate the work of harmonising guidelines from other modes of transport covering air, road, rail and other means of inland transport. At the UN/EDIFACT Joint Rapporteurs Team meeting in Oxford UK in September 1995, the JM4 (Transport) work group decided to recognise ITIGG as the source of guideline harmonisation information and leadership. JM4 also took a decision to officially accept ITIGG as a sub-group of JM4 (Transport).

At the Helsinki JRT meeting in September 1996 it was agreed that a formal working group should be established within the JRT process to commence the work of comparing and harmonising segment usage between different industry sectors. This has received the endorsement of other key working groups within UN/EDIFACT. This formal working group (known as T8) met for the first time at the Singapore JRT meeting in April 1997, and has commenced the task of comparing the usage of common segments by different industry sectors.

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