Why it’s Time to Standardise Data Sharing in Maritime Supply Chain
Traditionally, maritime organizations have been hesitant to share data. Even though they understand the benefits information sharing can bring, companies have been cautious, believing that it puts competitors or counterparties at an advantage.
A lack of data sharing has led to information gatekeeping, with each organization developing their own standards and practices in a vacuum.
The tide is now changing. The industry is beginning to seek the benefits of sharing data and working together to advance digital transformation. Singapore and the UAE are coming together to collaborate on digitalisation.
Globally, we’ve seen the introduction of the Sea Cargo Charter, establishing a framework which requires signatories to only use data types and sources set out in the technical guidance for assessing their climate alignment.
Be it the push to zero emissions or the need to overcome ongoing post-pandemic disruption, the industry has been confronted with challenges so vast that closer co-operation and technological innovation is essential.
As organizations embark on these projects, however, many are finding that everyone is speaking their own digital ‘language,’ with no common method of communication.
Data sharing can help companies make better informed decisions, optimise operations and drive efficiencies. Currently, however, there is no standard way to exchange and interpret much of the available information.
Data is taken from different sources and may be formatted differently, meaning that many businesses are not speaking the same digital language.
For example, there is no standardization when it comes to sharing basic information in ports – whether that’s regarding vessel arrival, for loading or discharging operations – to the extent that even the naming convention of the port, terminal and berth can differ from one organization to another.
Without common standards, organizations are obstructed from easily sharing important information – such as voyage updates, real-time visibility on shipments or contract details – with charterers, brokers, agents, and other trusted counterparties.
An additional factor is the sheer amount of data the shipping industry now generates – spanning everything from technical details on each vessel to commercial information on each vessel's current location and where they are heading.
Much of this data is disparate and unstructured, making it difficult to separate the signal from the noise. It can be hard for organizations to even know how much data is being captured, let alone which can be useful or drive meaningful insights.
To maximize data usage and analytics, a normalized language must be developed. Collaboration across the industry is central to achieving this, with participants adopting and implementing a common standard.
Industry-wide standardization is an important focus for Veson Nautical which aims at creating an integrated, independent digital ecosystem to support the industry.
One where owner/operators can strategically exchange information directly with and in the same digital language as charterers, brokers, agents, and other trusted counterparties, sharing specific voyage updates with personalized context at the click of a button.
Veson’s recent acquisition of Q88 feeds into this vision. The original Questionnaire 88 was built to create standardization around vessel suitability and risk and has long been the established industry standard for information on vessels for vetting purposes.
The acquisition of Q88 is helping Veson to standardize on the wet side of the maritime supply chain.
With many more different types of documents and data points still left to be standardized and optimized, there is plenty more work to do.
For example, the industry still has the opportunity to establish standards that convey the safety and inspection status of a vessel, so that all parties can access that information.
Ultimately, more transparency and easier flows of information makes doing business in the freight market more efficient, generating net positive financial returns for all parties.
This is particularly critical at present, as regulatory pressure on the environmental impact of doing business ramps up with the incoming CII and EEXI rules.
Organisations in the bulk shipping industry need to be able to measure their efficiency and emissions impact to be able to make more informed decisions on how to adjust their strategy and drive efficiencies in their operations that minimize environmental impact.
The maritime industry has made good progress with digitalization over the last few years but is now on the cusp of being able to really accelerate digital transformation and it is exciting to see the potential of what can be achieved for the industry's future.
The direct sharing of information between connected systems can become commonplace, with business transacted in real time and data processed in a structured, scalable, and actionable way to facilitate the best possible decision making.
However, collaboration and participation in standardizing data is essential to drive the pace of change.
The adoption and implementation of new digital technologies will require the support of industry-wide protocols and standards for data, to lay the foundation for a thriving, more modern and sustainable maritime supply chain that gets better outcomes quicker.