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‘Big Data’ is high on the agenda of virtual conferences in today’s shipping industry. But it remains true that most shipping companies still rely on ‘Small Data’.

Over 90% of shipowners and charterers still use decades-old tools to measure fuel consumption and performance. They use the equivalent of an electronic dipstick to sound the fuel tanks to determine how much fuel was consumed – and even then they only do this once per day so that they can fill in the numbers in a daily Noon Report, which also includes distance run and average speed, shaft horsepower, and propeller revolutions per minute. These daily averages alone cannot indicate the true performance of the engine, hull, and propeller. Let alone they can be used to detect trends over several months, because of variations in weather, current, loading conditions, and speed throughout each 24-hour period.  Hence we could refer to this data as ‘Small Data’.

Advocates of digitalization (including We4Sea!) see ‘Big Data as a promising technology, capable of solving multiple problems confronting ship owners and charterers, from optimizing port arrivals to maximizing vessel utilization, or identifying inefficient fuel consumption. However, if not done well, it is a bullet at risk of missing the target completely.

Alluring as it is, implementing ‘Big Data’ is also challenging. Translating the promise of analytics and algorithms into outputs that enable decision-making, demands a clear view of purpose and priorities.

Our advice with Big Data:  Start Small, Think Big.

Start small by systematically collecting operational data, like vessel speed, weather conditions, draft, heading, rpm for all your vessels. The good thing, most of the data is available at external sources, such as satellite (AIS) data providers or weather companies. Make sure this data is structured and be strict on formats and definitions (for example, using a mix of UTC and local time can result in a mess!).

Only by starting with the basics, you can build a robust performance monitoring solution that gives the required insights. Only then the data can help you analyze vessel performance or inefficient fuel consumption.

In the next phases, think Big. What else can you use the same data for? Comparing vessels in a similar class, benchmarking consumption, optimizing vessel speed. Or even creating a feedback loop, where data from historic voyages can be used to predict a future voyage.

Don’t know how to start? We4Sea has got you covered for you and can help you to collect the basics. Within 24 hours, we can start collecting all data needed for proper performance assessments. Interested how? Contact us for a chat.



Poortweg 4A
2612 AP Delft
The Netherlands

EU H2020
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 877766.
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