NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
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Mr. Paul Stanley, CEO( Global Navigation Solutions) : Safety and efficiency of navigation will always go hand in hand
By Sea and Coast | 24/12/2018

Having the right navigation data available where and when needed contributes to safety and delivers the visibility needed for a more efficient voyage, says GNS CEO Paul Stanley

The daily headlines on the digital transformation of shipping are evidence that owners, managers and operators have got the message on vessel optimisation and the use of data analytics: it’s not a passing phase, it’s about competitive edge.

At this point in the adoption cycle, it seems obvious that ships will benefit from a single view of their environment in terms of availability of critical voyage and safety data. Charterers might once have accepted that they would ‘lose track’ of vessels once or twice in a voyage but we now operate in a world where they have access to the same AIS feeds and a similar interest in more efficient shipping.

Despite the anachronism of the Noon Report, owners have recognised the need to share information efficiently between ship and shore in a way that combines enterprise data such as fuel consumption and equipment status, voyage performance information and compliance on a far more regular basis than was once the case.

Until quite recently, the cost of communications and the inefficiency of replicating data between ship and shore made this something rather more talked about than practised. Even though many shipping lines are behind the curve in terms of implementing true broadband or high speed near-shore GSM communications, it is possible, affordable and practical.

These trends hardly represent a dramatic shift towards digitalisation of the owner or managers’ operations, but there is a undeniable need for both to be able to demonstrate that the vessel has all the information it needs onboard and available, in order to sail safely.

The trouble is that when you dig into the detail of what some owners and managers have achieved so far, the reality is not as encouraging as the rhetoric. It’s very easy for shipping executives to talk a good digital game – and, for the most part, the story is one they wholeheartedly believe in. The issue is whether staff in the field are as well equipped.

For every digital evangelist who tells us how much connectivity and data are changing the game, there is a superintendent rolling their eyes and muttering ‘if only’. A superintendent doesn’t get as much platform time as the futurist, but it’s these guys that we spend a lot of time talking to.

They are the buyers of navigation data and nautical publications, the people who track the ships and collect the data that goes into the KPIs. What it tells us is that we are pretty much at the start of the digital journey.

We are becoming used to claims of game-changing vessel efficiency but there is still significant wastage on un-used navigation data and big gaps in operational compliance requirements. The opportunities that spill out from real vessel data – not just for voyage execution but for analysis and benchmarking – are still the preserve of the few, not the many.

It stands to reason that many owners and managers have preferred making investments in commercial transformation to the changes needed in their operational procedures, but the digital connection between the two means that this gap is closing.

What many owners and managers – particularly small to medium sized operators – need is access to big data and analytics without having to call in SAP or Microsoft. Their legacy shipmanagement software providers are not likely to be able to help – or would need to buy or build the functionality themselves.

It makes more sense to ask a supplier that already knows your business – and on whom you rely for safety and compliance products – do that job for you. After all, thanks to AIS and cloud computing they may know more about your business than you think.

The first and most urgent need is simply to get control of spending of navigation data – our research shows that many owners are wasting tens of thousands a year on electronic charts they will never use. The same operators can have troubling gaps in the publications they need for compliance purposes.

The GNS approach combines detailed historical vessel tracking and the use of algorithms which enable us to calculate precisely how much any vessel sailing anywhere in the world will spend on navigational products.

The same methodology can be used to demonstrate the presence of the technical publications required by Flag States, SIRE vetting and other key stakeholders and to provide global Port State Control inspection histories for all vessels.

To confront owners with these kind of challenges means you have to walk the talk. We initially designed and built our data analytics system for internal use and have spent the last two years showing customers our take on their performance.

It’s sometimes been a painful process. Customer workshops often find that shipping companies lack real-time access to all the navigation, position and voyage data they need in an easy to use format.

We have been able to help with that, and, once the problem is identified, then the cost saving and compliance improvement opportunities can be grasped. The vessel data can also be leveraged to provide tracking and monitoring to report sailing times and calculate operating costs more accurately, as well as tracking progress against charter party terms.

The same data yields yearly operating costs by sea hours and port call data including port fees and major consumables. Being able to easily see how much time a vessel has spent steaming and at anchor helps superintendents to identify and plan maintenance in a timely way.

Navigation chart data is an essential part of safe and smart shipping, but it’s also the key to understanding where the achievable digital opportunity lies for shipping companies. There is little point in the industry wringing its hands about the need for better data and analytics. Instead, put the tools in the hands of those who need them and they will quickly work out the best course ahead.