The maritime industry recognises that sharing data and collaborating with partners across the supply chain is critical for sustainability and digital transformation. However, there are legal and technical obstacles that can inhibit data exchange.
On the legal side, competition and antitrust laws are significant considerations when sharing data with competitors, even for sustainability goals. For example, in the EU, Article 101 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) prohibits anti-competitive agreements. While exemptions exist for pro-competitive collaboration on sustainability, legal advice is still required. Different jurisdictions have varying competition rules that must be reviewed before sharing data with competitors. Companies must ensure they comply with all relevant regulations and get legal guidance on setting up appropriate data sharing frameworks. Violating antitrust laws can lead to hefty fines or other penalties.
Technically, data silos within and between companies are a major barrier. Data silos are stores of data controlled by a single department or company, making the information inaccessible to others. While controlling access is essential for security, silos can also block legitimate data sharing. Companies often use different IT systems, data formats, and protocols, which makes aggregating and analysing data across organisations challenging. Legacy systems that predate the push for big data and digitalisation can be difficult to integrate with modern data infrastructure.
Liberating data by moving it to standardised exchange methods like REST APIs and cloud platforms enables digital transformation by allowing data to flow freely to where it can create value. Transitioning away from monolithic application architectures towards microservices and APIs improves interoperability. Cloud platforms provide the flexibility to deploy systems that combine data from disparate sources.
For instance, port community systems that bring together data from multiple stakeholders in a shared cloud environment provide enhanced data products not possible with siloed data stores. The synergistic effects of combining data sources demonstrate how the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts regarding data sharing. On an operational level, accessing integrated data on vessel locations, cargo, weather, etc facilitates efficient port operations and supply chain coordination. At a strategic level, aggregated data can uncover insights for innovation and investment.
Trust frameworks that align commercial incentives, manage legal risks, and enable technical connectivity are emerging as a solution. Groups like the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) are pioneering frameworks for competitors to share carbon emissions data to establish benchmarks. New data stewardship models like secure multi-party computation also enable collaborative analytics on combined datasets without exposing raw data.
While barriers exist, the efficiencies and sustainability gains from greater data sharing are motivating the sector to find creative solutions. Models that allow companies to share information without undermining competitive advantage or contravening regulations will be key. With the right frameworks in place, data that is currently trapped behind legal, commercial and technical walls can be unlocked to accelerate digitalisation. But it will require investments in new IT infrastructure, updated data governance policies, and multi-stakeholder alignment.
For a more in depth understanding of the topics covered in this article, refer to our latest report titled ‘Common Interests; How the maritime industry can share data, collaborate with trust, and build a mutually beneficial digital ecosystem.’ This comprehensive guide benchmarks shipping’s progress on using digital solutions to collaborate on decarbonisation goals and shows how industry frontrunners are breaking down the technical, legal, financial and cultural barriers.