Top 10: Data sharing benefits in maritime shipping sector

By Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett, Head of Product Insights at maritime digitalisation firm, Wärtsilä Voyage, says maritime, data must be shared across the vessel ecosystem

The maritime supply chain is critical in powering the global economy. The maritime sector is responsible for carrying 90% of world trade and estimates from the International Chamber of Shipping indicate that around 11bn tons of goods are transported by ships each year, from raw materials to cargo containers.

The past few years have seen the maritime sector’s digital transformation accelerate, as ship managers, owners and operators recognise the benefits that new technologies can unlock within their operations. As they face an evolving regulatory landscape, rising fuel costs and complex people management, data can be harnessed to ensure organisations can make better-informed decisions rapidly, accountably, and in full alignment with business and commercial objectives.

Here are the top 10 benefits of data-driven decision-making in maritime:

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Connected operations

By the very nature of maritime, data needs to be integrated and shared across the entire vessel ecosystem. Solutions need to span from the engine room to the bridge, to the board room, and from ship to shore. Historically, this has been a challenge. Furthermore, because of the many parties that are interested in good ship operation – from ship owner to cargo owner, to ship manager and beyond – data also needs to be connected across the supply chain. Combining a range of data points into one platform that provides transparency and insights across the whole ecosystem is essential during a period of growing complexity.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Compliance

Regulation is constantly changing within the maritime industry. From January 2023, new technical rules called the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) are due to come into force. EEXI will cover the efficiency of a vessel’s design, while CII will regulate carbon intensity and measure how efficiently a vessel transports goods.

These regulations will trigger a huge wave of change in the maritime industry, with a vessel’s CII rating potentially becoming a “licence to trade”. It will therefore be critical for ship owners and operators to make informed decisions that quickly and cost-effectively improve their CII rating in the short term to ensure compliance and keep the maritime supply chain running.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Transparency

Billions of data points are generated by vessels every day. Awareness of what data is being collected, its quality, source and where it is stored is invaluable for ship managers, owners and operators to better understand what’s happening in every area of the vessel, supply chain and team.

Shipping has also become more integrated into the global supply chain. Data transparency helps to ensure the right information is being shared with counterparties to make the supply chain run as smoothly as possible. In the years to come, expect data standardisation and sharing to become business-critical for maritime organisations.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Accountability

ESG reporting has rapidly become a key priority for companies and investors across the global supply chain, and maritime is no exception. All shipping companies are under increasing pressure to report their performance, with their governance competencies rated based on the transparency and accountability score of management, operations and processes.

ESG performance is linked to protection of the environment, crew welfare, and accidents or pollution incidents, and shipping organisations will be held accountable for any issues. Being able to draw meaningful insights from data and use those to inform decision making is therefore critical to ensuring shipping organisations score well.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Decision making

No two days are ever the same at sea. Priorities one day may rapidly change the next and so it’s critical that ship owners, operators and managers are able to keep up and make fast, well-informed decisions. Data helps here as, unlike manual processes, data remains responsive to change and enables ship owners, operators and managers to take swift, well-informed action. Vessel priorities are therefore easier to alter in near-real time, from improving CII score to getting to port on time or reducing fuel consumption.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Tracking change

Reviewing and evaluating decisions is critical to understanding and responding to opportunities for improvement. Data can be used to assess fuel performance or see which vessels are suited to clean technologies, depending on their historic performance over a year. Data can also help measure iterative jumps or changes in environmental progress, both for CII compliance, but also for the industry’s wider decarbonisation aims.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Feedback loops

As shipping becomes more equipped at handling and analysing data and feeding it into platforms, staff will become more skilled at asking the right questions in the right way. From this, platforms’ recommendations will improve, creating a feedback loop. Both platforms and users will become smarter and defter at tackling the key challenges on each vessel.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Teamwork

If crews are responsible for executing decisions, shoreside staff are responsible for overarching decision-making, meaning that it is critical that they have access to the same data and get a holistic picture of the reality that they face with the vessel or fleet. Data-driven decision-making helps create a world in which systems, solutions and teams can work in harmony, was the sector’s considerable wealth of data is used effectively to maximise efficiency, underpin safety, ensure compliance and enable decarbonisation.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Commerciality

Shipping is a competitive and capital-driven market. Organisations need to be able to maximise efficiency to ensure the highest possible profit margin. The power of today’s software algorithms lies in the fact that they can analyse data to make cost saving recommendations staff can use to drive efficiencies, blending software insights with human reasoning to chart the best course forward. In the case of fuel, which is the single largest cost for ship operation, software platforms can free up money to reinvest elsewhere in decarbonisation or other strategic goals.

Top 10 benefits of data in sea shipping: Future proofing

Given the incoming CII and EEXI regulations, monitoring and altering environmental performance within the global fleet will become more urgent. Data-based decision making will play a crucial role in future proofing maritime organisations and ensuring they continue to run safe, sustainable, efficient, compliant and profitable businesses. Making decisions based on gut or instinct is no longer viable. Without data-driven insights, companies will stay stuck in reactive mode, at the mercy of market change rather than adapting to it.

  • Sarah Barrett is Head of Product Insights at Wärtsilä Voyage, Wärtsilä Voyage, a company that helps the maritime sector deploy digital technologies, to deliver a step-change in safety, efficiency, reliability, and emissions reduction.

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