Data-sharing is the shape of things to come, and the shipping industry cannot reach its net-zero decarbonisation goal without greater transparency and collaboration among software suppliers, according to a panel discussion at the recent SHIPPINGInsight conference in the US.
But it was OrbitMI, a New York-based supplier of SaaS (software as a service) vessel management systems, that really grabbed the attention of the audience by announcing at the event a strategic partnership with peer player Nautilus Labs to show it is putting these lofty ideals into practice.
The industry shift towards increasingly digitalised systems is driving the trend towards an API economy in which operational and other data is streamed from multiple sources to a unified user interface to enable vessel efficiencies in areas such as voyage routing and fuel consumption.
This represents a departure from the “black box” culture of siloed data systems functioning independently of each other, which has prevented shipping companies from harnessing the potential of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve their operations.
Breaking down barriers
OrbitMI is seeking to break down barriers to data-sharing in the maritime software business by forging innovative partnerships with like-minded players to boost value creation for clients, according to chief executive Ali Riaz.
The company has laid down a clear marker in this regard with the progressive alliance with maritime technology firm Nautilus Labs that proved a big talking point at the conference in Stamford, Connecticut where transparency was high on the agenda.
Under the partnership, Nautilus Labs will be able to leverage Orbit Reporter, a browser-based tool for sharing noon, cargo, event and other reports with third parties, combined with high-frequency sensor data and apply machine learning to provide voyage and performance optimisation services.
This is intended to deliver “a comprehensive solution to manage data integrations, operational processes and optimisations for improved commercial and environmental outcomes”, according to a joint statement from both companies.
“The winds of digital change are blowing in shipping, and we all need to move in a different direction to fully realise the commercial and environmental benefits of digitalisation. Stakeholders across the industry must work together to reach the common goal of decarbonisation,” says Riaz, who introduced the OrbitMI-hosted panel entitled “Delivering on the demand for transparency”.
“API-based data-sharing is being widely used to lift productivity and boost sustainability in many other industries and transparency has to become the new norm in shipping,” Riaz continues.
Riaz says the partnership with Nautilus Labs “demonstrates how transparency and collaboration can have an immediate impact to accelerate decarbonisation of shipping” by making available vital operational data to optimise vessel performance and thereby reduce emissions.
In a study entitled “A Changed World”, research firm Thetius states that “digital tools can play a strong role in the immediate future of the industry’s decarbonisation journey”, citing evidence of fleet-wide fuel savings of up to 20% simply from changes in operational behaviour on the bridge.
The latest tie-up widens OrbitMI’s existing sphere of partnerships as it backs up its bold philosophy by taking action to promote cross-supplier collaboration. It also has alliances with weather data provider DTN, which has resulted in the enhancement of its software offering with the advanced Orbit Weather+ solution, as well as with vendors Kongsberg Digital and SEDNA.
OrbitMI is also among several players supporting the SET Maritime software evaluation toolkit that is designed to help the industry make informed purchasing decisions by assessing the multiple digital solutions available in areas like chartering and navigation based on defined criteria.
Riaz believes “there needs to be a shift away from silo thinking” as the functionality of different software needs to be integrated for effective streaming and processing of aggregated data that can then be used for optimal decision-making to drive operational efficiencies.
UK-based consultancy Critical Future has estimated that sharing data could unlock as much as USD 237 billion in economic value for the shipping industry over the next 7 years by increasing net revenue for shipowners through savings in areas like fuel consumption.
The broad make-up of the conference panel, which included representatives from agricultural charterer Cargill, Carnival Cruise Lines, classification society ABS and DTN, certainly indicated there is an industry consensus for a shift towards greater transparency.
But as panellist Carleen Walker, chief evolution officer of conference organiser SHIPPINGInsight, observed after the event: “Interestingly, while folks are willing to acknowledge the need for collaboration, they are still holding their cards closely to their vests.”