Data Oiling Shipping’s Wheels

July 3, 2018 2:19 pm













Shipping has a voracious appetite for data. This is no different when it comes to maritime training. Thankfully, KVH Videotel’s Performance Manager tools give owners, operators and managers the statistics, information and data they need. How though, did data come to the fore?


The shipping industry is seemingly lapping up the idea that “data is the new oil. What though does it actually mean for the industry? Lest we forget, data doesn’t get moved in boxes or barrels. So, what is the commercial sense for shipping of embracing something that it cannot actually shift?

Well, data, just like the sticky, gooey, hydrocarbon, needs to be refined to be useful and made valuable. The drilling for it is great, but it is only when it is fit for purpose that the real power is unleashed.

The phrase was apparently first coined as far back as 2006 by Clive Humby, a UK mathematician and architect of supermarket loyalty cards. His view was that both are important in their raw states, but that they need to be turned into a usable entity that drives profitable activity to have real value.

Data, just like oil, can provide power. For shipping that means getting the right information, statistics and intelligence. Type “shipping data” into Google – and it becomes apparent that our industry loves numbers about trade and commercial sentiment.


Online there is seemingly no end of products and services which provide forms of data. From ship movements, cargo volumes, imports/exports, and some that even gauge confidence in the business and happiness in seafarers. Scrolling past those then you come to performance data of vessels, or engines.

The focus of data in shipping is very much either economic or technical. Such data points, when refined, reveal incredibly important and usable trends. They show what is moving, where, how and how efficiently and effectively you might be doing it, or able to do it.

This kind of data is manna from heaven for the commercial and technical departments, as they take their informational “oil” and set about refining it. However, what works for sale & purchase, or slow speed diesels does not necessarily translate into that understanding an equally vital part of shipping, the standard of seafarers.

When it comes to maritime training, understanding seafarer performance and attainment is vital. For too long the industry has been either chasing paper-trails or has been dependent on extremely subjective reviews of crew attainment. Thankfully this has now changed.


Maritime training is a necessity for all shipping companies, but for it to truly make a difference, trainers and crewing managers need to understand how well crews across the fleet are performing.

It is vital to understand individual seafarers’ strengths, to be able to identify star performers, and of course to know who needs assistance and support. Such oversight is incredibly important, as too is the ability to dig deeper into real, actionable training insight.

Performance Manager gives the capacity to oversee crew performance; it shows which training has been performed, by whom, and at what location. It also provides the critical evidence of compliance required during an external audit or ship inspection.

However, it’s the ability to drill down into the detail that provides the insights that enable you to get the greatest value out of any training investment. This is the refining of data that does indeed make it the “new oil”.


Data and analytics allow us to make informed decisions – and to stop guessing. So, what are the top ten reasons which make data so important for any shipping company?

1. Deal in facts not feelings: Experience is wonderful, but facts allow us to make real decision, based on what is happening not what we think, or even wish was. With the growth of Blockchain technology in shipping, data will satisfy the needs of the chain.

2. Data provides objectivity: Data provides objective answers that can put an end to an argument. The person or department with data has a clear advantage!

3. Making trade-offs: Budgets only stretch so far, and shipping companies often need to make trade-offs. Having data has a real influence on the decisions a business takes, and on the outcomes.

4. Data is exciting: No really. The tools for handling large amounts of data and performing analytics are advancing incredibly rapidly. With better tools, comes better understanding of how we should be doing analytics and how we should use the resulting information, all of which is evolving extremely fast. Thinking about data and embracing it now better positions a company for the future.

5. Data satisfies curiosity: So many questions, so little time. That has long been the mantra within many a training department. Now, data provides the answers at a glance.

6. Data enhances value: Having data means that investments work harder. From a training perspective this means being able to focus on real needs and getting tangible results.

7. Data understands the past: Being able to use data allows companies to see what has worked in the past. Have training needs been met? How, when, where and why? If not, using data it is far easier to see where the problems may be sat.

8. Data sees the future: Predictions based on the data are far more likely to be correct. Being able to extrapolate trends, rather than simply guessing is always more likely to deliver the results a business needs.

9. Continuous improvement: Data is the best driver of continuous improvement. Measuring is managing and managing means improvement. Data can highlight errors and makes it much faster and easier for decision-makers to see the facts and to deal with them.

10. Seafarers benefit from data: Under a data-based training approach, seafarers will experience fewer “surprises” because their performance level, successes and errors will be measured and reported to them continuously. That helps them to understand their skills and appreciate the needs for improvement.

Actually though, data is in many ways better than oil. It is infinite and future proof. There is no limit to what you can generate, or indeed what you can do with it. Engaging with seafarers, to know your crews, to see their strengths, weaknesses, preferences and abilities. Well that isn’t so much oil – that is gold! Find out more and get in touch…