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Merits of shipping and data exchange

Published: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017

It is perhaps intuitive that working in co-ordination and collaboration is important for the efficient functioning of any industry.

Information exchange is one way of doing that. Through effective communication between various entities of an industry, a flow of knowledge occurs which prevents stagnation from seeping in. Information exchange in the maritime industry is just as important.

What might account for some of the resistance to information exchange? We contend that while plain old “resistance to change” may be at the heart of the paradox, it might well be a case of inability to respond to information exchange, brought about by aging and/or inflexible IT systems.

According to Andreas Mrozek, global head marine and terminal operations for the Hamburg Sud Group, one of the world’s largest container shipping lines, “Everyone benefits from collaboration and data sharing.

It starts with the customers and moves to the carriers, then the terminal operators, vendors, freight systems, truck companies, and keeps going down the line. Closer collaboration is a compelling value proposition for each supply chain partner.”

Over the course of the last decade, most industries have been leveraging (and realising synergies from) the power of data to increase their pace of innovation and efficiency. Inarguably, the shipping and logistics industry, thought typically somewhat slower to pick up on automation and digitisation, has begun to recognise the importance of data and technology in becoming and/or remaining relevant, competitive, and adaptable to change.

Jurisdiction specific, given our own slow progress towards a truly open economy—in the context of data/information sharing—we are of the view that many businesses still believe that withholding information (moreso historic information) is power, and withholding it results in some kind of competitive advantage.

An international maritime consulting firm has found that the maritime industry and broader ocean supply chain are suffering from major and costly inefficiencies due to ineffective data sharing and poor cross-industry collaboration (Business Performance Innovation Network).

A 2017 study conducted by three respected maritime industry players in the field of maritime analytics and maritime industry technology, produced some important findings. The study was based on a global survey of more than 200 executives and professional from terminal operators, carriers, logistics providers, vessel owners, port authorities, shippers, consignees, and other members of the global ocean supply chain.

• 90 per cent of survey participants said real-time data access and information sharing was important to increasing the efficiency and performance of the shipping industry. Some 80 per cent said the industry needs to improve supply chain visibility.

• On average, surveyed executives estimated that each of a wide range of ocean supply chain processes could be improved by as much as 66 per cent and no less than 55 per cent if the industry updated its IT systems and improved its ability to share data with other members of the supply chain.

• Just 12 per cent of respondents said their partners were “very effective” at collaborating and sharing data, although 38 per cent said their partners were improving and 32 per cent said they were “somewhat effective.”

• 85 per cent of shippers and consignees rate the industry as either “slow to change” (70 per cent) or “far behind the curve” (15 per cent) when it comes to innovation and next generation technology adoption.

On the local front

One of the most significant outcomes of the ongoing implementation of a single electronic window (SEW) has been the generation of important maritime statistics. We therefore acknowledge that locally mindset shifts are taking place, albeit not all critical stakeholders are willing and/or capable of playing their part in moving the maritime industry forward; improving collaboration and visibility through information exchange, and the adoption of new technology-driven models and processes.

Automating, updating IT systems, and synchronising processes are among the ways to eliminating the impediments to information sharing.

The top five most promising technologies for the maritime industry are: data analytics, automation, the Internet of Things, new software management solutions and cloud solutions.
Detractors of information sharing take note.

1. Better co-ordination
This allows for better co-ordination between ships; which is essential regardless for what purpose the ship is sailing. Reportedly, it is due to the importance of co-ordination in the marine industry that even more efforts are being made at developing an information exchange system that will allow greater co-ordination.
2. Greater safety of ships
This allows better co-ordination the ships, hence greater safety of ships. In case of maritime accidents, an efficient system will allow rapid information exchange which will support locating the affected ship(s) that much sooner. Accidents like grounding of a ship or a pirate attack—where it becomes difficult for a ship to communicate on its own— an information exchange system can be very helpful.
3. Improved trade
The shared information here could include cargo information about ships leaving from various ports, connecting ships scheduling etc which will mean ships can communicate better and trade can improve.
4. Sharing experiences
Through maritime information exchange, there is not only exchange of knowledge but also of valuable experiences. This will allow mariners to learn from each others’ experiences, getting precious details about expeditions other mariners have been on like handling various maritime accidents, running into unexpected situations etc. and add more to their knowledge. Allowing a proper threshold for such information exchange in the maritime industry can open up channels for better learning experiences for mariners.
5. Better trade options
This can be a single international organisation that will regulate information and make it available to one and all, making important piece of knowledge known while keeping the other sensitive bits in safety. The main idea behind such a system is the scope of better trade options.
An internationally maintained organisation will be the centre point of flux of all the information and will make trading smoother. That way, ships can communicate directly, sharing their information through a single body.
6. Discuss problems and views about current issues
Information exchange events organised all over the world are the perfect opportunity for seafarers and shipping from all over the world to discuss their problems.
At a recent maritime information exchange vessel operator’s meeting, everything from marine environment to maritime accidents to specific and future threats to marine industry was discussed.