Marsec-XL: Don’t dismiss software development

Cospicua: In the third installment of Maritime CEO’s WISTA Week celebrating women in shipping we are in Malta catching up with Krystyna Wojnarowicz, the president of Marsec-XL, the Marine Software Engineering Center of Excellence. 

In a rallying call to all shipping bosses Wojnarowicz is adamant that maritime software development is something that has been undervalued and underappreciated in the industry and yet is something that will only grow in importance.

“I call for more attention be given to digital technologies in our industry,” she says, “as most, if practically not all, innovations will be and are already today, in some way, determined by or based on software. This means that today there is a growing need for domain specific maritime software engineers in the maritime industry, which so far has not yet been fully recognised by most maritime CEOs and decisions makers.” 

In her own words Wojnarowicz says she is a serial entrepreneur, having started her first own company at the age of 20. Since 2006, she has been active in the maritime ICT domain. 

“I am a keen mariner and diver, and an IT geek,” she says proudly.  

For 15 years Wojnarowicz has been working with ambitious organizations in the transition towards digitalization and technological advancement of their products and services, managing research and innovation projects as well as technology transfer and collaboration between academia, research institutions and industry. 

In 2007 she co-founded Marsec-XL, which now has locations in Malta, Norway and Seattle. 

Among key initiatives at Marsec-XL, is MARSSA, which stands for MARine Systems Software Architecture and is the first Open Reference System Architecture (ORSA) in the maritime industry. 

“I strongly believe in collaborative efforts and in cross-interdisciplinary empirical research. The maritime industry could do with more of both,” says Wojnarowicz.

For a long time Wojnarowicz noted there was a gap in the maritime industry in its lack of focus on specific maritime software engineering. 

From her experience, in most industries, such as automotives, that are facing the challenges of growing software dependency of their products and services, and struggling with too low quality and too high costs, one of the underlying reasons is inadequate level or lack of open standards, and also often lack of focus on the underlying reference systems software architecture. 

“The same applies to the maritime domain, which still lags behind other neighbouring domains such as automotive and aviation,” she says. 

However, this situation gives the maritime domain an opportunity to learn from its sister domains and adopt and "marinate" their solutions to the same challenges, Wojnarowicz says. 

In the automotive industry there is an open systems architecture called AUTOSAR, and in aviation SAVI. The maritime domain today has MARSSA. 

“Thanks to the creation and adoption of these open standardized architectures, the car and aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers of electronic systems and components have reduced their development costs and at the same time increased the quality, reliability and safety of their products,” says Wojnarowicz, adding: “There are valuable lessons to be learned from these industries that can be and should be ported over to the maritime domain, and this is how the concept of an open reference system architecture for the maritime domain, named MARSSA, came about.” 

Due to the significant fragmentation of the maritime market Wojnarowicz opted for an Open Source approach for MARSSA, the project handed over the open source community two and a half years ago after three years of development by Marsec-XL. 

MARSSA is available free of charge to anyone who wishes to use its software code and embed it in their own systems and products. 

Going open source with a reference system architecture was certainly an innovative – if not disruptive – move, similar to what happened with the Linux operating system, reckons the Polish national.

MARSSA has been identified as one of key technologies to feed into the MONALISA 2.0 Motorways of the Sea project under the leadership of the Swedish Maritime Administration

Other exciting projects Marsec-XL is working on include ORCA (Open Radar Collaboration Action), something Wojnarowicz  says is “a very exciting new project” which is being worked on with academia and research institutions as well as other maritime industry players. 

Marsec-XL is also looking at GoogleGlass integration as maritime navigation aids to increase the operational awareness and safety.

Returning to a regular theme on Maritime CEO, on whether shipping has fully embraced e-commerce, Wojnarowicz says the high costs of connectivity at sea has been a big barrier. 

“In shipping today we face one big challenge of continuous and affordable internet connection and data transfer,” she says, adding: “This is specifically challenging for sea going vessels where the reliability and costs associated with the use of internet are unfortunately still close to prohibitive, and I think this is the one of the main factors inhibiting the full transition to e-commerce.”

On her WISTA involvement Wojnarowicz is with her native Polish chapter of the association and is in the midst of setting up a chapter in Malta. 

“There are some fabulous maritime ladies in Malta, who I'm working with on setting up WISTA Malta, and we are all eager to contribute to the global growth of WISTA,” she says.   [06/11/13]



Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) is an international organisation for women in management positions involved in the maritime transportation business and related trades worldwide. It is a major player in attracting more women to the industry and in supporting women in management positions. With networking, education and mentoring in focus, WISTA seeks to enhance members’ competence and empower career success. Visit the WISTA website at:

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