Information is the basis for all services which make up more and more of our economy, and adds to the value of products. The shipping industry is in itself a pure service industry delivering transport services to goods and people.
To communicate the information needed for the services in an efficient and cost-effective way decreases the cost of the service delivery. This usually helps the growth of existing services and the innovation of new ones. Some good examples come from the telecom sector: the GSM standard helped lowering the cost for mobile phone calls paved the way for a new service – text messages. The Bluetooth standard lowered the cost for wireless machine to machine connections, a technology which is paving the way for the Internet of things. In both these developments it was a common standard with open interfaces that helped the industry develop. And in both cases the commercial industry actors were very active in developing the standards. GSM through the industry community, and Bluetooth as a vendor consortium making a de-facto standard.
The shipping industry is more fragmented than many other industries. There are many more actors involved both in the actual transport service as well as on the regulatory and administrative sides of authorities. A proud history and a long legacy have made the industry very flexible and decentralised. But when it comes to standardisation the legacy can be a burden.
But this has not stopped the industry to implement one of the most efficient standards in the whole industry world. Goods come in all shapes, weight, and packaging. But the container changed the whole operational picture. The standardised measurements and interfaces to lifting equipment has revolutionised the whole transport chain from supplier to wholesaler. The time of transferring goods from one transport mode to another has been cut, and the cost of moving a product across the world is now measured in cents instead of euros. The container is one important pillar in the globalisation we have seen in the latter years.
I suggest we build on the success of the container. Let us containerise the information! Instead of requesting information in different shapes, weight and packaging – let the industry define the information containers. In order for it to be successful we need to have the commercial industry players support and participate in the development. New standards and interfaces must be adding value to the commercial players, either in the form of lower costs or in better services, but preferably both. If information sharing becomes simple, cost-effective and automated, it will help the industry reinvent its processes and provide even more value to the customers.
Ship´s navigational and communication equipment, consist of a broad mix of technological solutions and hardware provided by many different manufacturers. There is a big variety of both HMI, operational logics and degree of quality of the information exchanged. Some standards exist but in general the ship owners are free to set their own level of standard and design as long as they fulfil the minimum requirements set up by IMO. The manufacturers are very keen to lock in their customer into proprietary solutions binding them for years to come with updates on the different machines and software’s, since their specific format is not compatible with almost any other machine.
With the introduction of the information sharing concept, Route exchange, developed in the MONALISA project the need of a common standard was quite obvious. During the progress of the Route Exchange theories the maritime technological industries very fast understood the potential of the concept. A meeting with 25 persons from the 15 biggest manufacturers were held in Copenhagen in January 2013 with the aim to agree upon a common format for routes in order to make it interchangeable despite the brand of the navigational information equipment.
Within 30 minutes the meeting agreed upon working together finding the best format suitable for all parties. The format was completed within a year and in October 2015 after some minor adjustment the Route Exchange Format, RTZ was standardized in IEC 61174 edition 4 and is now available in all update ECDIS.
Other initiatives in the same spirit are trying to achieve clear definitions of time stamps for port calls, e.g. ETA and ETD, and trying to adapt the main standard for logistic information, EPCIS, to maritime use.
Whether it is small but important pieces of the information puzzle, like the RTZ standard, or if it is trying to handle all ship reporting – let us support industry initiatives that aim to containerise information!
By Ulf Siwe, Communications Officer of the STM Validation Project, Swedish Maritime Administration
Ulf Siwe explained the importance of “Containerisation of maritime information“ during his presentation at the 2017 SMART4SEA Conference & Awards. Mr Siwe stated that containers have revolutionized the efficiency in goods handling. It was the standardization in the 60s that made it possible for the whole industry could build cost-effective systems for loading and storing and much more. Sea Traffic Management has introduced a similar approach for maritime information; real-time data is the “container”. Mr. Siwe suggested setting the standards, creating open interfaces and providing a solid infrastructure. Route Exchange is the first standard with potential to increase safety and efficiency in double-digit numbers, he stated.
You may watch Mr Siwe's video presentation herebelow
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
Explore more about STM Validation project by viewing relevant video
About Ulf Siwe
STM Validation is an EU-project more than 50 partners in 13 countries and budget of 43M euro. Mr. Ulf Siwe M.Sc. is the Communications Officer of the project. The project is validating the Sea Traffic Management concept on 300 ships and in 13 ports, testing real-time information sharing to authorized relevant parties in the maritime transport chain. Ulf is the author of scientific papers in the field and an appreciated presenter at conferences