Decarbonisation in the maritime sector hinges on more than just technological advancements; the strategic use of data plays a crucial role. As the industry pushes towards sustainable operations, standardised data practices and clarity on data ownership have emerged as essential components.
Collaborative digital data is heavily reliant on common units of measurement and frames of reference. For example, in speed measurement, one ‘nautical’ mile-per-hour (1 Knot) is very different from one ‘statute’ mile-per-hour (1 MPH). In fact, 1 MPH is about 15% faster than 1 knot. Confusing these velocities could cause a sizable cumulative error in the data, unless naming conventions and definitions (known as “nomenclature”) are agreed and understood between senders and receivers from the outset.
One practical example of standards development has recently developed in noon reporting. While noon reports remain the de facto standard for ships at sea, digital high frequency data is gathering momentum as a transformative method of gathering larger amounts of data.
Progress in satellite connectivity over recent years is making this paradigm a reality, but noon report data will likely continue to be the standard for some considerable time to come. One advantage of noon reporting data is that it provides a focal point for data quality monitoring. For example, if one noon report gives a position which is impossibly distant from the previous report, it provides a clear indication that an error has occurred.
As seafarers shoulder more complex tasks at sea, digital noon reporting offers shipping companies a way of sending key voyage information more frequently without increasing burdens on officers and crew. The other major advantage is that digital noon reports can easily and instantly be shared with the stakeholders that need it, such as charterers and terminal operators.
In February 2023, the Smart Maritime Council launched their “Standardised Vessel Dataset (SVD) for Noon Reports”. This simple, but impactful list of standard data points is offered for use by any maritime stakeholder and is aimed at standardising the data collection, sharing, and analysis of noon report information. Making sure that interoperability and compatibility is maximised across the supply chain is a vital step towards making automated digital data exchange work well for the sector.
The dataset is the brainchild of a proof of concept process involving ship managers OSM, Thome, and V.Ships, with additional support from Stolt Tankers. Lloyd’s Register participated as the data analysis partner and as part of their input, suggested adding timestamped metadata alongside standard data points to “ improve the potential for that data to be used to create actionable insights in the longer term.”
Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council, Rob O’Dwyer, said, “The maritime industry as a whole, stands to significantly benefit from widespread adoption of standard formats in the collection of vessel operational data, reducing the time and resources wasted in converting each ship operator’s own data into the variety of different formats required by application providers.”
Data Ownership and Control
Alongside interoperability standards, there is the topic of data ownership and control. From a legal perspective, data “ownership” is a complicated term and depends upon factors such as the “data value cycle”. This describes how in business – particularly complex, cross-border trade – the involvement of numerous stakeholders makes it difficult to determine who could or would be entitled to claim ownership of a particular piece of data. Data sets are often compound and there could be several potential claimants to component data points.
In the Smart Maritime Council “Best Practice Guidelines for Data Ownership and Access in Maritime”, this issue is tackled by seeking to establish three pillars of data ownership and access, summarised as follows:
- The raw data produced by shipboard equipment belongs to the equipment owner and that ownership conveys certain rights.
- Equipment manufacturers should not place unreasonable limitations on the equipment owner’s ability to access this raw data.
- Equipment manufacturers should provide owners with access to the means of decoding and understanding the raw data, for free or at a reasonable cost, to enable the owner to use the data for other purposes.
This approach sets out a stall similar to that posed by the EU Commission in February 2023, with their proposal for a new EU Data Act. According to the EU, the volume of commercial and industrial data is rising exponentially within the bloc, and is forecasted to rise from 33 zettabytes per year in 2018, to a hefty 175 zettabytes per year in 2025. As a result, it will address legal, economic, and technical issues that lead to data underutilisation. The result for shipping will be a similar paradigm to the one set out by the Smart Maritime Guidelines, mandated into EU law. The rules are anticipated to create an additional €270 billion in European gross domestic product (GDP) by 2028.
To achieve meaningful decarbonisation in the maritime sector, it’s imperative to harness data effectively. With the establishment of clear data standards and understanding of ownership nuances, the industry is better positioned to make data-driven decisions that support a sustainable future.