What Can Vessel Data Do For You?


Published Sep 15, 2022 5:52 PM by Sarah Barrett and Kay Dausendschön

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes once said: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” When applied to the modern maritime industry, data management, analysis, and ultimately the insights that stakeholders are able to derive from it, are a powerful tool that must underpin business critical decisions.

Benefits of data

Data can aid maritime executives in tackling the biggest industry challenges. There is no escaping the issue of decarbonization and developing a plan for both vessels and entire fleets is now a commercial imperative; a strong sustainability strategy is underpinned by a clear data strategy.

Data-led insights can also guide the c-suite through the myriad of complex incoming environmental regulations that are set to shake up how the sector operates. While laudable in terms of their environmental ambition, the IMO’s EEXI and CII requirements, for example, will heap pressure on owners, operators and charterers.

Every year from 2023 onwards, shipowners will have to calculate and report their fleet’s Annual Efficiency Ratio (AER) and resulting CII rating, which is ranked from A to E. Rating thresholds will tighten annually and a low performing ship will become a serious commercial risk. A strong CII rating is already becoming a ‘license to operate’ in the eyes of some cargo owners.

Given this context, real-time visibility of a vessel’s preliminary CII rating based on operational data, as well as insights and tools to allow operators to optimize for CII performance over a voyage or series of voyages will be invaluable. Using data, owners and operators can continuously monitor the CII performance of their vessel to avoid having to take drastic efficiency measures unexpectedly if their rating is lower than estimates.

Decarbonization is also set to redefine how the industry remains competitive. Emissions are becoming increasingly integrated into costs as carbon taxes such as the EU’s Emissions Trading System are introduced. Adopting technology that effectively leverages data onshore and onboard vessels will boost competitiveness, increase asset value and make your ships more attractive to a new generation of seafarers.

By offering insights on the factors impacting a vessel in real time, data can support better decision-making on ways to optimize operations. It can be used by shoreside staff evaluating fleet-wide decisions, as well as for crews making moment-to-moment decisions. Ultimately, when used effectively, data and technology can improve a vessels’ safety, operational efficiency, and emissions – in turn, helping to reduce overall costs.

Unlike manual processes, data remains responsive to change – and maritime operations are constantly evolving. Everything from regulatory compliance, to sanctions, to fluctuating fuel costs demands decision-making that can keep pace. So it’s clear that fast access to clear data-led insights will enable owners and operators to make optimum, timely decisions.

As well as aiding decision-making, data also underpins Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting. Data transforms transparency and accountability to counterparties by uniting multiple sources of information for the most accurate representation of the facts. Data can be efficiently relayed using standardized reporting processes that makes a vessel’s considerable data input clear, streamlined and manageable.

There are clearly many benefits of using data and digital technology effectively, so what’s stalling the industry’s progress in this area?

Breaking down the barriers

The opportunities and insights that data can offer are incredibly exciting, however the sheer volume  of information can also be overwhelming. There has been an explosion in the volume of data available to the maritime industry. In 2021, the overall amount of data generated in the world was estimated to be around 79 zettabytes – equivalent to 79 trillion gigabytes. By 2025, this amount is expected to double. As more data is generated, it becomes increasingly complex to store, manage, and analyse. Knowing what data to focus on and turning that into actionable insights remains a key challenge.

Data is also gathered on a huge array of things happening on a vessel, including from the engine, control and bridge systems. Ultimately, much of this information goes unused or data is siloed due to interoperability issues. Organizations sit on a wealth of knowledge, but often don’t know what data they have, where it sits across the business, and who has access to it. Struggling to manage these foundations makes it almost impossible to make good use of data.

The speed with which data is obtained, interpreted and acted on also relies as much on the collaboration of the people involved as the systems and software in place. However, if a high volume of fragmented data is actually making shoreside staff and crews’ jobs more complex, the likelihood is that they won’t embrace digitalization and data.

So, how do you break down these barriers to ensure you make effective use of data and digital technology?

Connecting the dots

The solution is finding the right partner who can help break down silos, overcome fragmentation, and deliver a holistic view of the entire fleet or vessel ecosystem, to support not only decarbonization aims, but also underpin the critical decision-making that will keep the industry ticking during this era of real change.

The maritime industry needs solutions that work together to connect the dots, both securely and holistically. This requires there to be one language across the scope of a ship’s operations, both at sea and onshore, creating a world in which systems and solutions can work in harmony for all end users.

With the right support and software platforms, data-based decision-making will become the norm for efficient and compliant vessel operations, but this is only the beginning. Once you start to connect the dots, you lay the groundwork for technologies that can have an even more profound future impact on efficiency, sustainability and safety, such as a highly automated ships, more advanced AI and machine learning.

Data can do a lot for you right now, when and if it’s used properly; the road ahead is filled with opportunity and we’re only just getting started.

Sarah Barrett is Head of Product Insights and Kay Dausendschön is Head of Product at Wärtsilä Voyage.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.