As part of London International Shipping Week (LISW) 2023, the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) hosted a panel discussion: ‘Navigating the Maritime Future: Turning Data into Decisions’. Our panel of industry experts were invited to discuss how data can help address digitalisation and decarbonisation, two of shipping’s biggest challenges.
Following an introduction from Paul Marks, Head of Data Partnerships at the UKHO, the session opened with how the shipping industry is responsible for 2.8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – a figure that could, without action, increase a further 10% by 2050. However, with more data than ever before at their disposal, industry stakeholders are exploring new ways to reduce the sector’s environmental impact, to achieve the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s decarbonisation targets.
Richer data to inform decisions
Pekka Pakkanen, Director of Blue Visby outlined his team’s research on achieving true voyage optimisation. The Blue Visby Solution aims to “find practical ways to optimise the arrival times of vessels heading towards congested ports. This includes the technological solution as well as the contractual changes to the charter parties and sale contracts."
Through combining a technological algorithm with contractual architecture for stakeholders, the Solution has the potential to return impressive efficiency savings. “We have analysed the average annual savings from perfect ‘Just in Time’ arrivals and it would be about 20% [efficiency savings] with no buffering or no vessels waiting at all,” Pekka explained, “once we add that buffer, it is still about 15% saving potential. Only when you add weather routeing, that’s another 5-7% on average.”
Pekka explained how the UKHO has contributed to the project by providing data and offering expertise to help shape the proposals. At this point, Tom emphasised the UKHO’s ambition to support partners who have the expertise to achieve true vessel optimisation.
Connectivity from ship to shore
The role of regulation and standardisation
Having discussed the range of opportunities underpinned by data and connectivity, the conversation then shifted to some of the challenges around standardising that information.
Keith Johnstone, Assistant Director of Ports at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), steered the conversation back to the port environment and some of the complexities associated with regulating the sector from an environmental standpoint.
“The UK has 1747 ports and there is no agreed central government definition of what a port is,” he explained, “are we talking about a semi-collapsed stone pier in the north of Scotland or are we talking about Felixstowe? And do we apply the same rules for those? What does it look like in terms of the connection to an urban environment if we’re bringing vessels that are using ammonia or hydrogen or nuclear? So, there’s quite a lot for us to understand.”
On the MCA’s role, Keith expressed the importance of collaboration: “As a convening power, the MCA is responsible for bringing domestic and international partners together, as well as collaborating with industry, academia and across government."
"It is absolutely essential to be engaging with international partners, engaging with the IMO, ensuring there’s agreement at an international level around these sorts of things, and then refining our domestic legislation based on that.”
Thomas explained how, in the field of hydrography, data standardisation has been successfully applied. “We've been very successful in getting agreement across the globe to use a single set of standards. Our first generation of digital products in the ENCs have been used for the last 20 years.
“The goal is to replicate this success with the emerging S-100 data standards, by supporting the case for an internationally agreed approach that will serve the hydrographic community for the next 20 years and beyond.”
Setting the foundations for autonomy
But what will that next 20 years hold for hydrography and maritime navigation? Evident from other panel discussions held throughout London International Shipping Week, the audience were keen to hear about the topic of autonomy and the role data will play in autonomous navigation.
“There will always be a need for navigational information. Maybe it won't be in the same form as we have today,” answered Thomas, “when we look at autonomy, there may not be a human on board to view that data.”
To help understand the data requirements for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), the UKHO is currently chairing the IHO’s MASS Project Team. Thomas discussed the varying degrees of autonomy and how the requirements of a Degree 1 MASS vessel – which has automated processes and seafarers onboard who can take control if required – may differ from a Degree 4 MASS ship; a fully autonomous vessel that makes decisions and acts without any human input. “The Project Team is seeking to establish what data formats would be necessary for each level of autonomous vessel,” he said.
Join our webinar
Join us from 14:00–15:30 on Monday 9 October for our free webinar, where Thomas and UKHO Chief Executive Peter Sparkes will revisit some of the big talking points from the recent panel discussion. As well as discussing the key topics, they will also provide further context to some of the opportunities and challenges raised by the panel during the LISW event.
A live Q&A will take place during the webinar, giving you the opportunity to pose your questions to Thomas and Peter.