Waterborne (Ferry)

Ferry Reservation Technology

There is an extensive disparity of standards in the sector leading to complex trading relationships. Focus here is the use of messaging techniques for passenger ferry reservations used between the ferry operator and the reseller (B2B model). Typically the reseller is an online ferry travel agent but may be an affiliate, intermediary, distributor or network. To date the use of such messaging has been restricted to the classical credit trading partner relationships and because of this, ferry reservations utilising APIs do not include settlement, which is managed separately. However, the techniques could be extended to include payment details, thus allowing ‘cash’ agents to be resellers.

In general Web Services XML APIs are used together with their protocols and prescribed transmission networks to facilitate system access by the trading partners. However, a United Nations Trade Data Interchange EDIFACT standard (Unicorn) from the 1960’s is in common use in the ferry sector. This predates Web Services technology. The de jure standard known as FerryXML Web Services, created by the TTI[59]in 2006 succeeded Unicorn.

Typical reservation service primitive message pairs (request / response) as covered by the TTI FerryXML message structures are:

Sailing Request (Timetables)

 Accommodation (on board)


 Booking Enquiry



 Amend Enquiry



Ferry ticketing messages are rarely used. Ticketing is usually part of booking fulfilment including embarkation documentation.

List of Standards and Techniques

There are both de jure standards and de facto standards in use. For the purposes of this paper de facto standards are those APIs between an operator and many user partners which are not formal de jure. De facto standards are also used by intermediaries to overcome the multiple standards in use, unifying them by offering a single API to users. All standards below except Unicorn utilise Web Services XML messaging. They are listed roughly in chronological order and maturity. 


De Jure Standards


Unicorn – Pharos Dtatcom is contracted to maintain this standard on behalf of the TTI.


FerryXML – created and published by the Travel Technology Initiative (TTI); not supported.



De Facto Standards


Xchange Ferry - schema based, related to TTI FerryXML message structures created and supported by Pharos.


Own design XML Web Services - Supported by owners.


Entee – created by and supported by the Travel Gateway.


Seatravel – utilises OpenTravel Alliance 2.0 object oriented structures, WSDL (Web Services Description Language) based, travel industry compatible; created by Pharos.


FCGp – embryonic standard – based on TTI FerryXML with data element harmonisation.