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Department for Transport – Maritime Statistics


Around 95% of UK imports and exports are transported by sea. The companies and ports that handle this freight must submit data about their activity to the Department for Transport.

The people who provide port freight data are employees of ports, shipping lines and shipping agents. Most of them do this by using a 10 years old website that only runs on specific web browsers.

There are around 400 different data suppliers (both major/minor ports and shipping agents), with the existing website being the main method for data submission.

Users compile and submit data to DfT because they’re required by law to do so. Most are in operational roles, making sure ships collect and deliver their cargo efficiently. At best, reporting on port freight is a small part of the job. At worst, it can get in the way of them doing their job. While it’s never going to be top of their priority list, there are frustrations with the existing process. This suggests opportunities to reduce the burden, even if we can’t remove it completely.

Statistics are data, and data works best when it’s standardised. Although port freight depends on standards such as shipping container sizes, managing port freight operations isn’t standardised across the industry. Difficulties can arise from things like two organisations having a different version of the same dataset. Also, the cargo categories required in port freight statistics aren’t used elsewhere, and they don’t match how those in the industry categorise and describe their cargo.


The Department for Transport had just completed a discovery, looking into users’ experience of providing this data to DfT. 

A discovery is a phase of work that helps us understand and articulate a set of needs so we can propose a way of meeting them.

This would start with prototyping and further continuous engagement with users to ensure the service makes the reporting process as easy and error-free as it can be.


Level 5 worked together with the internal DfT team as an integrated partner (“we are one team – DfT” approach), working in the GDS Agile way.  With the tested, and iterated prototype, our team delivered the Alpha phase which concluded a MVP solution for obtaining Maritime Statistics in the UK.  The service utilises the GOV.UK frontend kit to maintain the consistency with the GOV.UK look-and-feel.

The service allowed ports to enter statistics into a usable system, where data is aligned.  A data migration process was also included to import legacy/existing data into the new service on Google Cloud.

Using cloud-based and collaborative tools including JIRA, Confluence and Slack, we were able to manage deliverables, sprints and documentation with effective knowledge transfer.  This collaborative approach led to a seamless knowledge transfer. effective code reviews and peer-programming exercises to upskill the permanent development team.  

As a team, we delivered the public service from Alpha, to Live, passing GDS assessments – at first pass.

The service meets accessibility standards, passed pen testing, followed GDS architecture approach and obtained TDA/ARB approvals.

Passed GDS Discovery, Alpha, Beta, and Live assessments

Effective knowledge transfer for a successful handover

Upskilled apprentices within the department

A unified source for maritime statistics

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