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Interview: Shipping Firms wasting money on paper in digitalization era

Hayley van Leeuwen, Head of Product, Global Navigation Solutions

The era of Big
Data, connectivity and the Internet of Things offers significant
opportunities in terms of efficiency, productivity and cost reduction, however,
not all sectors seem to be taking full advantage of these new tools.

The sheer volume of data that is potentially available can be
overwhelming and companies from shipping, as well as many other sectors, are
still working out how to really seize the full potential of everything
digitalization can offer.

An analysis of shipping companies’ purchasing habits has
identified that shipowners are very far from realizing many of the
benefits of digital technology and Big Data. In the majority of cases, the
potential savings remained untouched, Hayley van Leeuwen, Head of Product, Global Navigation
Solutions, said in an interview with World Maritime News.
This is because shipping companies
are still buying charts and publications in the way they did before digital
navigation. In other words, vessels are carrying large numbers of both paper
and electronic navigational charts (ENC) and digital publications on board just
in case they may need them.
“Buying just-in-case in this way
involves wasting lots of money on large numbers of digital charts and
publications that vessels never actually use.”
Van Leeuwen explained that this is despite charts and publications
being easily accessed via permit keys that can be emailed to ships within 10
minutes and the widespread availability of pay as you sail (PAYS) services that
provide always-on access to charts.
“As a result, inefficiencies,
which equate to many thousands of wasted dollars every year, are commonplace
and there is a massive opportunity for shipping companies to generate
significant savings simply by using our tools to help them buy the right
products for each voyage and avoid overspending.”
The company created Voyager FLEET INSIGHT, as a completely
transparent and efficient way for marine, HSEQ and purchasing managers to
manage navigation compliance and cost online.
GNS explained that the company first started collecting AIS and
other data like port state control histories for SOLAS vessels in 2015. Since
then they have captured over 1.2 billion AIS positions for 75,000 vessels above
400 GRT and have been using that data to identify which navigational products
are needed aboard vessels.
“It was through this data that we
were able to see just how many shipping companies were overspending,” 
van Leeuwen said, adding that this drove GNS to get out in
the market and show how this data could make a massive difference to what is
purchased and how much is spent.
Many marine managers reported that
they do not have the time to regularly review vessel inventories against
routes, flag state requirements or technical library requirements. If software
is installed on board to help navigate more efficiently, it usually is not
being fully exploited. And navigational product purchasing is still more often
than not habitual, based on what has always been bought rather than what is
actually needed.
Speaking about wastage on unused navigation data and big gaps
in operational compliance requirements, van Leeuwen said that as much
as 70% of the products companies are paying for have not been used.
“We work with both large and small
companies globally to provide specialist information and services that would
not be cost-effective for them to self-build. Sometimes that information is
integrated into bigger systems, mostly though it provides significant value
GNS also offers companies to upload their own data sets into GNS’
system for additional insight and analysis in how their fleet is performing.
That is helping fleet analytics to become more accessible across the entire
market, not just the bigger companies.
However, as is often the case with new technology, many of the
benefits of technology are still theoretical and have not yet filtered down
into operational level, according to GNS.
“We are far enough along this
journey to digital navigation for the captains and ship managers that we work
with to be fully aware of the capabilities and the limitations of the systems
they are using. Most people in the industry would agree about the importance
and value of knowledge and experience and also about the important role of
technology in enhancing those skills and enabling professional mariners and
shipping company executives to achieve more.”
In a world striving for smart shipping, GNS said there is no
doubt that things are going to get more integrated, more transparent and more
efficient across all aspects of ship operations. There is also a trend towards
decision-making moving away from the vessel to shore-based control centers.
“As things stand today,
connectivity is possibly the biggest limiting factor in terms of autonomous
vessels and it is difficult to predict how quickly that will be resolved to the
level that would be necessary.”
Commenting on a scenario in which seafarers could be replaced by
machines, van Leeuwen said that it is very unlikely that machines are going to
be able to match humans in areas such as intuition and creativity any time
“It is more likely that machines
will augment what seafarers do rather than replace them completely in the near
to medium term future – particularly in more unpredictable marine environments.”
World Maritime News

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