Envisioning a single-sourced maritime information chain
Data from on board ships is an extremely important commodity in the maritime world. Shipowners, ship managers or operators need this data and derived information in their communication with various stakeholders, such as carriers, charterers, cargo owners or ports. They also need it to meet reporting obligations, to provide evidence to insurance companies, classification societies or authorities like port state control, or to make their own decisions about improvements to the ship's performance and safety.
Today, there is a multitude of maritime data from different data sources. The more such data is combined with other data and put into context, the more valuable it becomes. This value creation is based on an analysis and interpretation of the data, which then becomes information and facts.
For example, data flows from vessels to shore via public web service providers (e.g. data from automatic identification systems), but information is only made available through analysis by proprietary reporting software or fleet analytics platforms. At the same time, many stakeholders on land use the data from ships. For this, data is prepared in various formats and templates to meet the respective information needs and is transmitted by email or web-based tools directly from on board the ship. This manual step also turns data into information.
The plain example of a container ship sailing from Genoa to Valencia in November 2022 puts this into numbers: during the two-day voyage, the chief mate Constantin H. communicated with ten different addressees ashore using five different communication channels, including email, software templates and phone. Points of interest included navigation, the planned route and voyage information, observed weather, load and stability information, engine data and fuel consumption, stores and garbage, cargo operations, maintenance, crew actions, and many more.
The question is: in times of digitalisation of every last resort and internet availability everywhere on sea, is it still efficient and in the interest of high data quality to accept manual translations, media breaks, misinterpretation and the risk of human errors when transmitting data ashore? Can all of the stakeholders involved really rely on accurate and consistent information this way?
The inconsistency of data and the resulting inconsistency of information is to some extent simply caused by the amplification of the potential for human error, as we see with the repeated manual transmission of data between stakeholders. Based on the transmitted data and information, each stakeholder gains its own picture of the situation on board, which isn’t necessarily the same as that of other stakeholders - because of the inconsistency in information.
What is the price we pay? Stakeholder decisions may be based on wrong assumptions about the situation on board, which could lead to unnecessary costs and even wrong critical decisions. At the same time, the assumptions of two different stakeholders may differ, which could lead to costly yet easily avoidable conflicts.
The conclusion is that maritime data from ships is indeed valuable and forms the basis for various business transactions and processes. However, its importance is firstly increased if it can be contextualised and made available as maritime information. Secondly, the underlying data should come from a consistent source. The right solution for shipping is, therefore, a complete maritime data and information chain based on a dedicated, reliable and approved source.
With the innovation of electronic logbooks (or digital logbooks), the traditional basis of information keeping is transferred to the digital world, providing a single source of onboard information.
Electronic logbooks provide elementary evidence of all command and ship crew activity in a secure, digital format, utilising automatic data entries that are supplemented by manual, approved entries by the crew. Logbooks contain all of the ship's critical navigational and operational data; the deck logbook, the engine logbook, the oil record book and the garbage record book are now typically available as electronic logbooks. They can be integrated with onboard systems and clouds to share and merge additional data, and to provide real-time information to stakeholders in shipping.
Combining the electronic logbook with software for data exchange services, voyage analytics and decision-support can now create an entire maritime information chain that delivers consistent, approved information from the ship to shore-based stakeholders.
A great example is the connection with the Statement of Facts (SOF): traditionally, this has been a multi-step process, starting with entries into paper logbooks by the officers and continuing with the transcription and consolidation of the events by the master and agent. The agent creates the SOF, which is then distributed by email to the shipowner and transcribed into claims for the charterer. Each of these steps not only causes workload, but also bears risks for inaccuracies.
Combining the SOF with an electronic logbook instead delivers one definitive form of the truth about events on the ship available to agent, shore-based operations and demurrage teams. The officer’s entries in the digital logbook are consolidated with events in real time in the SOF software by the master and agent. These are then shared digitally with the owner and charterer who can immediately start processing reliable data as required for their business and operations.
Another example is combining an electronic logbook with a reporting software. Logbooks require a lot of information for documentation needs, and reporting software also requires a lot of information for performance management. Traditionally, mates and engineers collect all the information in the logbooks and record books, and then transcribe it into the reporting software. Using the logbooks directly as source for the reporting tool makes this work obsolete and avoids transcription errors.
The advantages are obvious. On the one hand, the crew can concentrate on the essential things by avoiding redundant activities. On the other hand, the data quality in the performance management systems increases due to fewer errors. An additional effect of reducing the crew's workload is also that the crew takes more care in maintaining the information without pointless duplication of work.
The formation of a single-sourced maritime data and information chain is of great importance for the paperless operation of vessels. Electronic logbooks enable the transition from error-prone and manual data collection and transfer to a single-sourced digital process chain for maritime information.
This is how the stakeholders can benefit:
- All stakeholders involved, including the owners, operators and managers, benefit from transparency and consistent information which is made available in a digital format to reduce administrative workload and to enable more efficient decision-making.
- While the owner still has full control over the vessel’s information distribution, they can also rely on better standing in any conflict situation due to compliant, approved and high-quality data.
- The crew aboard takes advantage of electronic logbooks as these overcome the amount of paperwork associated with traditional logbooks and reporting chains, which are highly time-consuming and bear the risk of distraction and human error in navigation
Read more about Anschütz eLog here: Class-approved Electronic Logbook (Digital Logbook)
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