Big Data in Shipping

Picture of 9 February 2021

9 February 2021

In an industry that transports more than 80% of globally traded goods, data-driven processes and insights can help enhance efficiency and overall productivity. In this article, Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL, discusses the importance of leveraging big data in the maritime industry and actions to take moving forward.
‘Big data’ has become a buzzword in recent years, as the maritime industry sails towards an increasingly digitalised future. So, what is it? Big data refers to a large amount of data that requires advanced tools to analyse, store and process. Sectors such as finance, healthcare and banking have benefitted greatly from the utilisation of big data. In recent years, the maritime industry has started to leverage this, creating new opportunities for many players in the industry, such as ship owners, charterers and operators.
In a report commissioned by Trelleborg Marine Systems, the maritime industry generates 100 to 120 million data points daily from various sources such as ports and vessel movements. By leveraging insights generated from big data, organisations can increase overall operational efficiencies and create opportunities for growth.

For example, big data enhances efficiency as it enables the integration of operations across systems and assets. Some activities that were previously being performed onboard vessels can be done on shore now

Dr. Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, SEA, Pacific & India at DNV GL.

Dr. Shahrin continued by sharing some services in which DNV GL has employed big data, which has received positive feedback. “Our Port State Control (PSC) Planner helps ship owners understand and anticipate vessel inspection criteria, allowing them to take the necessary actions when their vessels are in danger of failing to meet these criteria,” he explained. Based on actual Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, the ship’s risk factor and the PSC inspection window of the corresponding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be shown at a single glance on DNV GL’s platform.
“To help customers manage their survey requirements more efficiently, with respect to time, scope and cost, we have introduced Smart Survey Booking, providing notifications of upcoming, cost-effective combinations of surveys as well as transparency on estimated travel and overtime cost in advance,” added Dr Shahrin. “Big data is also used in DNV GL’s Direct Access to Technical Experts (DATE), a 24/7 technical helpdesk, to support our customers in a faster and more efficient manner.”
Investing in technology, people and processes
The first step to leveraging big data is having sufficiently advanced technological infrastructure. Presently, many maritime companies have already embarked on the digital shift, focusing on technological solutions to improve and optimise work processes. On top of having the right infrastructure, companies should ensure that their cybersecurity efforts are sufficient in safeguarding sensitive data. Despite the numerous benefits that big data has to offer, some companies may be reluctant to invest in technology due to insufficient resources, or the lack of clarity and certainty of the returns.
The human element is also critical to digital transformation. “One of the most common problems that organisations encounter in the digital transformation journey is the commitment from everyone in the leadership team to start on the journey together,” shared Dr Shahrin. “Most projects tend to get stalled or fail to achieve objectives due to poor management processes.”
However, that is not to say that it is just about the leaders or those in the Information Technology (IT) department. The entire workforce needs to have the right mindset and be well-equipped with the right skills to benefit from digitalisation and big data.
“DNV GL has established various other digital innovation programs and initiatives for employees to benefit from big data,” said Dr Shahrin. “We collaborated with INSEAD to design a ‘Leading the Digital Transformation Programme’ for our senior management, to ensure full commitment from the top. This program was further extended to heads of departments, team leaders and digitalisation champions throughout the organisation via online modules. Subsequently, in early 2019, we jointly developed a Digital Transformation Program with a leading learning partner for all employees worldwide.”
Foreseeing an increasing dependence on big data in the maritime industry in the coming years, Dr Shahrin recommends for maritime companies that are new to digitalisation to first develop a data strategy and data governance internally. In addition to gathering data, companies need to learn to analyse and create value from it. The ability to create value lies not only in the quality of the data but also in how well the data is managed within companies.
“Maritime companies can start their journey by participating in this complimentary self-assessment created by DNV GL to understand their organisations’ data management proficiency,” shared Dr Shahrin.
Plugging the gaps
To further improve performance and efficiency in the industry, data sharing and collaboration amongst maritime players throughout the supply chain should be encouraged. Yet there is still much to be done in this area.
“One of the key areas to promote data sharing is to continue focusing and investing in data standardisation. Just like how standards are used in other industries to achieve economies of scale, having these standards in the maritime industry would not only help to promote data sharing and collaboration but also facilitate integration and interoperability,” explained Dr Shahrin.
In an increasingly digitalised future, maritime companies are recognising the importance of collecting and turning data into actionable insights to optimise processes and remain competitive. Since technology and people go hand-in-hand, aside from a continuous effort in upskilling the workforce, companies should invest in attracting young talents who are well-equipped with the right skillsets to transform the industry.
As organisations become more informed and initiate actions, the maritime industry will benefit in the long run as it becomes more dynamic, adaptable and prepared to address future challenges.


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Mr. Lars Kastrup


Mr. Lars Kastrup is the Chief Executive Officer of Pacific International Lines (Pte) Ltd (PIL).

Prior to joining PIL, Mr. Kastrup was CEO of NOL/APL, and subsequently assumed the role of Executive Vice President, Strategy and M&A at CMA CGM Group. A veteran in the global shipping industry with over 30 years of experience, Mr Kastrup’s other roles include Executive Vice President of Assets at CMA CGM Group heading up CMA Terminals, CMA Ships, Container Logistics as well as regional carriers such as MacAndrews, OPDR and Mercosul; as well as Vice President at AP Moller-Maersk.
Mr. Kastrup complemented his tertiary education with leadership and management training at Penn State University and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Angeline Teo


Ms. Angeline Teo is the Managing Director and Head of Global Transportation and Offshore, Global Corporate Banking at OCBC Bank which focuses on the maritime, aviation, land & port ecosystems.
Ms. Teo has spent over three decades in maritime finance. Prior to OCBC, Ms. Teo was working at ING Bank, ABN Amro and DnB in Singapore focusing on maritime and offshore.
Ms. Teo graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Business Administration.

Mr. John Martin


Mr. John Martin began his career in London in 1989 with Richards Hogg Lindley Average Adjusters, and qualified as a Fellow of the UK Association of Average Adjusters in 2000.
At RHL he worked in their offices in Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2003 he joined Gard Hong Kong, as a claims handler. Mr. Martin also worked in Gard Japan, and in 2014 he moved to Singapore to set up the Gard Singapore office.
Besides running Gard Singapore, Mr. Martin also heads the P&I and H&M claims units and is the Senior Claims Representative for Gard in Asia.

Mr. Cyril Ducau


Mr. Cyril Ducau is the Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte Ltd, a leading shipping company headquartered in Singapore for the past 30 years.

He is also currently the Chairman of Kenon Holdings Ltd and a member of the board of directors of Gard P&I (Bermuda) Ltd. and of the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation Limited, which was established by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He was previously Head of Business Development of Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited in London from 2008 to 2012 and acted as Director and Chairman of Pacific Drilling SA between 2011 and 2018.
Prior to joining Quantum Pacific Advisory Limited, Mr. Ducau was Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Morgan Stanley & Co. International Ltd. in London between 2000 and 2008.
Mr. Ducau graduated from ESCP Europe Business School (Paris, Oxford, Berlin) and holds a Master of Science in business administration and a Diplom Kaufmann.