StratumFive, a voyage intelligence company, is in the midst of a business transformation – shifting from being a software provider to creating a platform that will offer total voyage insight, and handle a wide range of datasets to generate insights.
Stuart Nicholls, CEO of StratumFive, says his company now services more than 8,000 commercial vessels.
“Having this insight into the mindset of the mariner, in conjunction with our own seafaring heritage, has allowed us to develop solutions that fundamentally make sense, and ensure that clients are able to carry out all voyages with optimum performance, safety and efficiency,” says Nicholls.
Nicholls has seen that developments in technology have greatly increased the range of data and inputs that are now available, which has generated huge potential to create solutions that provide intelligence and insight encompassing every aspect of the entire voyage.
“This is where we see the market going; not just optimising any one aspect of a voyage, but instead bringing together datasets from multiple and sometimes unexpected sources to be able to answer any question about a voyage that seafarers, crew and operators may need answers to,” Nicholls says.
In Nicholls’ opinion, the critical opportunity is moving from voyage analysis to voyage intelligence, and there’s huge potential for machine learning to find enhancements throughout every aspect of the voyage – even before the vessel departs, and well beyond its arrival in port.
“This opportunity comes from improvements in how we can index, search and manipulate data. The ability to pull together datasets from different sources that might initially seem unrelated, but it allows us to come up with new insights and drive optimisation,” Nicholls maintains, adding that the oil and gas industry has been using machine learning for three or four years now, and there’s a real opportunity now for the maritime sector to catch up.
The maritime data sector is now enjoying a new level of prominence and enthusiasm, and Big Data is the buzzword of the moment.
However, Nicholls warns that the industry shouldn’t lose sight of the human element, which is still vital.
“We need to work in a way that augments and complements good seamanship. How this plays out for us is partly that safety is at the heart of everything we do,” says Nicholls. He suggests that the data industry needs to listen – to ask what shipping and seafarers need to know first, rather than creating solutions in search of problems.
Nicholls notices that there is a tendency towards a gold rush and futuristic mentality within the shipping industry around the power of Big Data.
“The danger is that if you’re continually rushing around, adopting each new thing that comes your way, you risk losing sight of the bigger picture. For example, you might come across a new, advanced method for optimizing trim. However, no matter how finely optimised this is, if there’s a poorly thought out course change, or a security incident, all of this comes undone,” Nicholls warns.
Similarly, he sees a lot of companies where data is siloed.
“Different departments might not even realise that they have datasets that can help each other, and the potential benefits, shared learnings and efficiency gains are being lost,” Nicholls observes. “This is why we’re focusing so much on building a broad, open platform that encompasses the whole of the voyage.”
Nicholls believes there’s also a lot of work to be done guiding the industry through its digital transition.
Given the current challenging market conditions, shipowners and operators aren’t in a position to adopt the ‘move fast and break things’ approach to technology adoption that has prevailed in other industries.
“The world is changing fast, but not overnight. If we can help our users adopt technology at a pace that’s manageable for them, it’s going to be better for everyone, rather than forcing people to adopt the latest new shiny solution that they are not necessarily in a position to realise the full benefit from. It’s a journey that we need to help them navigate, step-by-step,” Nicholls concludes.