In today’s world, data drives business. Across sectors, data analytics software provides insights that drive efficiency, inform risk management, improve on-the-job safety, and more—and that software and data-driven approach has officially reached maritime, argues Joseph Kelly, Vice President of Maritime Solutions at ABS Wavesight.
he industry, through no fault of its own, lagged somewhat behind other sectors in its adoption of digital tools. While technology rapidly connected enterprises ashore, vessels were unable to get the reliable connectivity needed to facilitate the widespread benefits of digitalized ecosystems. Now, the proliferation of technology, like low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, paired with advancements in Internet of Things (IoT) applications has changed that, bringing the full power of data analytics, connected operations, and real-time monitoring to fleet and vessel operators.
While maritime’ digitalization has only just begun, its benefits are already playing a role in the market and putting those that adopt systems that capture data through connected equipment onboard, as well as from third-party intelligence providers an advantage over their competitors. Having access to this critical operational and industry context guides strategic operational improvement, allowing operators engaging with these tools to gain a competitive edge by:
- Letting data guide decisions. Having a robust database of current and historical organizational data takes the guesswork out of decision-making processes, supporting more effective, timely, and risk-conscious resolutions to both big-picture decisions (like whether to expand to new markets) and smaller choices (like when to schedule maintenance). In a business with as tight of margins as shipping, small wins add up and big wins can make all the difference in success.
- Developing stronger contingency plans. Maritime shipping is a volatile and unpredictable business that demands agility, and having access to broad datasets helps ensure operators are ready when challenges arise. Historical, real-time, and industry datasets come together with weather information, fuel price projections, and more to power more accurate and tailored analytics models so operators are always ready to pivot. Being prepared for these unforeseen challenges can mean staving off a delay to keep a contract or even protecting the crew from natural or other hazards.
- Getting a head start on sustainability. With sustainability at top of mind around the globe and the International Maritime Organization’s emissions goals getting closer each day, operators must find ways to curtail their impact and adhere to reporting guidance. Connected vessels can provide relief on both fronts, eliminating the need for manual reporting while also highlighting opportunities to improve sustainability performance, giving early adopters a leg up on their competitors as regulations become more stringent.
- Overcoming staffing challenges. Connectivity and digitalization enable automation and access, both of which can help improve crewmembers’ experiences—a critical undertaking in today’s labor market. The maritime sector faces a significant (and growing) labor shortage so any changes that make the job safer, more enjoyable, or less stressful may yield significant benefits for operators, giving digitalized fleets an edge over the competition.
Starting early for a strong foundation
Operators with access to robust, real-time datasets are already using it to achieve optimized journeys, better safety and sustainability performance, and more. But early gains in the market aren’t the only benefits of beginning a digitalization journey early. When engaging in data-based initiatives, the breadth and depth of an organization’s dataset are directly correlated to its value. In other words, the more information an organization has, the more meaningful and precise its capabilities provide.
Operators who haven’t yet started their journeys can begin by reaching out to their partners to see what capabilities they would like to see from their carriers. Then, leaders should engage with department heads, managers, and lower-level staff to identify pain points that might be alleviated by digital tools. This information can help leaders kick off conversations with software providers, cybersecurity firms, and other related vendors to ensure they’re on the right track when the time comes.
That said, there is no wrong way to start—so long as you do start. As technology continues to advance, connected ships will only become more important to success. The operators who start building their programs now will be more prepared to keep pace as the industry at large embraces the inevitable transition to a digital future.
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.