ORIENT Overseas Container Line (OOCL) will be linked by electronic data interchange (EDI) direct with customs authorities in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia by the end of the year. Bosco Louie, director and general manager of OOCL's information systems department, said the company, which started EDI links with vendor-suppliers in 1988, would be gathering container movement EDI data from more than 30 marine terminals. ''In addition, EDI data is coming in from US railways, APL, Sea-Land, Maersk and numerous container depots'' he told the Multimodal Asia Pacific '93 conference in Singapore. All the incoming EDI data would enable OOCL to update its internal databases faster and more accurately. He explained that pro-active customer service required information of the future such as being able to forecast when a shipment of cargo was likely to arrive at a destination according the company's vessel schedules. Reactive customer service differed as it was based on the most up-to-date information, he added. Mr Louie said an OOCL study, which was carried out without participants knowing the sponsor of the research, revealed that what shippers missed most was a real live customer service person from the carrier. The shippers wanted a person who understood their business, someone who was extremely knowledgeable, who could talk to them and work out solutions to problems when they arose, he said. ''Some shippers go even further, stating they would like a carrier to become a partner or an extension of their services to their customers,'' he added. Mr Louie said the shippers also stressed ''training your people'', as it gave staff the required know-how and information. Customers required their information to be delivered via voice, fax, E-mail, EDI and combinations of two or more, he said, adding that they wanted it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ''OOCL is in the process of turning every piece of paper document required by our customers into both fax and EDI,'' he said. Mr Louie said customers would have an option of receiving booking confirmations, either by autofax or EDI message, with similar arrangements for bills of lading, arrival notices and invoices. Unlike other major carriers, OOCL had no plan to allow customers access to its database through PC modem for information known as electronic data access (EDA), he said. Pearleen Chan, managing director of Singapore Network Services, said that to facilitate international trade, many countries had developed or were in the process of developing automated systems to provide a central one-stop registration service with all relevant government authorities. The move would eliminate duplicate data entry at each governing authority through the sharing of common data at a single source, she said. This would eliminate the tedious tasks of verifying documents manually, she added.