Why You Should Harness the Power of Big Data in the Maritime Industry

Why You Should Harness the Power of Big Data in the Maritime Industry

We’ve talked about the maritime industry and how marine technology is changing the very face of both shore-based jobs as well as seafarer jobs before in the Martide blog: From Artificial Intelligence to blockchain and from drones to self driving and autonomous ships.

We've even asked if seafarers are going to be replaced by robots in the not too distant future.

But what else is helping to shift both operations and attitudes among shipowners and managers with regards to tech? For this blog post we thought we would take a closer look something else impacting the shipping industry in a number of ways: Big data.

But is big data just another buzzword or is it actually on course to be changing the future and making waves in the maritime sector?

neon blue sign saying Data has a better idea under window showing city skyline

And more importantly, what is big data and what can it do for shipping companies that are interested in finding out how to use it to their advantage?

Why you should harness the power of big data in the maritime industry

Much has been written about big data and we don’t want to get too technical - that’s best left to the tech guys! But at its simplest, unsurprisingly, this is a term that’s used to describe a huge amount of data. This data can be structured or unstructured.

Structured data is, as the name suggests, data that has been organized - usually in a database - so it can be processed and analyzed.

Unstructured data on the other hand is exactly the opposite: information that hasn’t been processed or sorted.

laptop with charts on the screen

What both structured and unstructured big data sets have in common is that their size, complexity, and often their speed makes them unwieldy to deal with.

Traditional methods of processing data don’t work and so big data is a means of finding ways to handle, process, and analyze these vast amounts of intelligence.

It’s what you do with that data that counts

It’s all well and good having all this data but, as the saying goes, size isn’t everything. It’s what you do with that data once it’s been processed and made more manageable that really counts.

The whole point of big data, and where it can come in extremely useful for the maritime industry and for changing the future of the shipping companies that utilize it, is that it can be analyzed for deep insights that result in more informed decision making and strategic planning.  

a hand holding a wrench with the word 'strategy'

Traditional data versus non-traditional data

In a pre-big data world companies relied on “traditional technology” to analyze the information collected from within their organization.

Extracted from sources such as warehouses and including factors like transit time, fuel costs, revenue and wages, this data could be interpreted to calculate a voyage’s profit or loss margins.

Marine tech and big data techniques now make it possible to evaluate not just this traditionally-mined data, but also non-traditional data such as texts, videos, images, audio clips, and GPS and sensor readings.  

person using laptop while writing in notebook and looking at graphs and charts

How can big data help shipowners and managers?

Using big data techniques enables companies to propose preventive measures that can overcome problems.

Literally changing the future.

And for the shipping industry to become leaner and more operationally efficient it needs to harness this power of predictive analysis.

Through pattern finding and subsequent strategic planning, all aspects of maritime operations can be enhanced. From enabling a more secure environment to ensuring prompt deliveries, and from the accurate tracking of cargo to allowing on-the-spot decision making regarding terminal allocations, big data can turn this, and more, into reality.

containers in a port

Big data and connectivity

Supply chains are complex and have many moving parts. And where big data, specifically an ICT system (Information Communication Technology), can help is to connect all of those different facets.

You'll be adding real value to your company by choosing to use an ICT system and harnessing the big data it produces by connecting your vessels with your personnel, both ashore and onboard, and with the ports you sail into.

It's all about better collaboration between your people, your departments, your offices and your ships and enhancing the flow of your business.

Read more: Why Collaboration in Maritime Recruitment is Crucial

the word 'flow' made out of giant letters

Real life examples of big data at work

As someone who is working in the maritime industry, you don't need us to tell you how the Covid pandemic impacted global supply chains. The knock on effect from the crew change crisis was felt across the world by manufacturers, logistics companies, retailers and consumers alike.

(And let's not forget the toll it has taken on seafarers who were unable to disembark or unable to work.)

And if your shipping company found itself scrambling to cope with the rapidly shifting landscape, consider how big data could have been beneficial in planning alternative routes, estimating ETAs, and helping you, if not avoid the fall out, then at least plan for it so you were better prepared.

Here’s another example: let’s say one of your vessels is heading straight for the eye of a storm. Not only could this be potentially dangerous, it will also be highly likely that delivery times will be adversely affected.

tornado at sea at sunset

This is where the shipowner or manager can employ big data to calculate the cost and viability of taking an alternative route.  

Big data in the maritime industry: conclusion

Big data offers some serious advantages when it comes to running a tighter ship. Quite literally. Therefore it seems likely that this is one marine tech advancement that does have a future role to play in the maritime industry.

Is it time you implemented or upgraded your ICT systems? It could be well worth investigating some options. And if it all feels a little overwhelming, remember that you don't have to jump in with both feet and become a totally digitalized organization overnight.

For example, at Martide, we love technology, which is why we created our maritime recruitment and crewing system software for shipowners and managers, as well as manning agents.

screenshot of Martide's crewing system

Our software platform is custom built for the maritime industry. It helps you advertise your job vacancies, source qualified seafarers, manage your recruitment pipelines, track your applicants, and plan your crew and crew change dates efficiently and effectively.

We've designed our recruitment and crewing system to be user-friendly, with a highly visual and intuitive interface, so even if you're not on close terms with the latest marine tech buzzwords or the most technically minded person, you should have no trouble using Martide to streamline your operations.

If you’d like to know how we can help you upgrade your maritime recruitment and crew planning departments, get in touch with us today.

This blog post was originally published on August 2nd 2019 and updated on May 10th 2022.

Eve Jones

Eve Jones

I am a content writer at Martide, helping to keep you up-to-date on all things maritime recruitment and shipping industry related through our regular blog posts.
UK