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Posidonia 2022

Data is a dead weight without strategy

Photo: Wartsila autonomoustug.jpg
The hoarding of data can create a dead weight for a company; the value of data is in its sharing and analysis.

Ahead of the debut Global Maritime Club Summit on June 9, Seatrade Maritime News spoke to Sean Fernback, President, Wärtsilä Voyage about demystifying digitalization.

Fernback said that step one in the digital journey is to make a strategy.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of collecting data—or hoarding it—because it’s what everyone else seems to be doing. But data that’s collected and not shared and analyzed has no value. In fact, it’s just a bit of deadweight.

“The first choice should be deciding on a data strategy that looks at collection, sharing, and analysis of data. Everything else should be designed and built around that.”

Once a strategy is established and a digitalisation partner/vendor is chosen, the applications for digital tools are many and increasing, while barriers to the efficient operation that digital tools enable are falling.

“Shipping has only woken up to digitalisation in the past few years, and occasionally there are certain barriers to smart technologies adoption. Take, for instance, the just-in-time (JIT) arrival. Even though it has been around for decades, until now there has been no established procedure for sharing its benefits among all the stakeholders involved in a charter.

At first sight, it seems to go against the common requirement in a voyage charter for a ship to proceed with ‘reasonable despatch’ to a port and, on arrival, give a ‘notice of readiness’ to mark the start of its period of hire. But this can sometimes result in demurrage payments while waiting to load that exceed the cost of burning excess fuel to arrive early. This is one of the biggest barriers to JIT operations yet also one of the key benefits of smart ports.

“Many shipping bodies have realised the need to overcome that barrier, including BIMCO, which published a Just-in-time arrival clause in February 2021 for voyage charters. This provides for a payment by a charterer to a ship’s owner to compensate for the extra time on the voyage.”

Such opportunities to reap the benefits of voyage and operational optimization will be further enhanced by the IMO’s regulations on CII and EEXI, said Fernback.

To meet the requirement, two factors will be critical: quality of collected information and how it is handled in order to support decisions. Wärtsilä Voyage can enable this process because a large number of ships having our equipment on board, so that their operators can give permission for it to be accessed remotely for software such as Navi-Port to make predictions and plan for a ship’s arrival in port and to arrange the services and equipment it will need.”

Fernback reflected on whether such regulations can be met without the adoption of digital solutions.

“As the demands of regulators become increasingly complex, the need for holistic solutions that provide full transparency across the board becomes more poignant. Feeding data to the growing number of off-vessel demands – from performance management to charter party and environmental compliance – is an increasing bureaucratic burden that prevents people from focusing on the real value-add tasks.

“Having a data platform that can provide full transparency and visibility across all operations on the ship and on shore helps make regulatory compliance more seamless, saving time and money. Even better, with the right software, you can even predict where a vessel might fall short on compliance needs and take action before it happens to avoid potentially costly pitfalls.”

Beyond simple time saving and performance improvements, Fernback said digital solutions have the potential to improve conditions onboard for crews.

“The way we see it, technology has huge potential to take away certain burdens from seafarers—especially around manual input and repetitive tasks which take a lot of time but add little value. By removing these, seafarers can focus on the things that only people can do, those that require intuition and experience and that add real value.

“We also want to make shipping safer and more efficient, so our technology is designed to help seafarers make the best possible decisions with insights derived from data. This is why rather than adding another device to the list of equipment onboard, our smart solutions tap into the existing resources. They synergize — interconnecting all functions under one integrated system — to achieve maximum efficiency,” said Fernback.

Read responses from others on the panel - Best foot forward: ambition and clear targets in digitalisation


The Global Maritime Club Summit – in association with Seatrade Maritime – will be held on Thursday, 9th June in the Posidonia Conference Hall as part of the Posidonia International Shipping Exhibition Conferences & Seminars programme.

The one-day Summit and is free to attend on a first-come, first-registered basis.