Maritime risk management and big data

Adrian Clifton writes for maritime safety management company HiLo. He explains what big data is, how it works, and the benefits it can have for shipping organisations.

Big data is one of the most talked about recent developments in business, and with good reason: it is revolutionising knowledge and efficiency.

What is big data?

It can be summarised with 3 ‘V’s: volume, velocity and variety:

  • Volume: far larger amounts of data are now available easily from many different sources, through interconnected devices and the Internet of Things.
  • Velocity: data is received far more quickly, even sometimes in real-time. It can be fed into systems automatically to enable speedy analysis and use.
  • Variety: easier data-gathering means you can gain a greater variety. This can include unstructured information which would have been difficult to categorise in a traditional rigid system, but now can add valuable insights.

How can big data help shipping companies?

For the maritime industry, big data has huge potential to improve safety and protect seafarers, by revolutionising marine risk management.

The internal data available from shipping companies increases the accuracy of predictions, enabling companies to pinpoint the cause of individual issues and spot patterns. You can therefore change practices, introduce new technology and streamline processes to proactively prevent incidents.

Why do shipping companies need big data?

Traditional management of maritime risks has been informed by:

  1. Analysis of past marine safety incident reports.
  2. The real-life, subjective experiences of safety managers.

While these both offer great value, they can only allow you to make safety improvements retrospectively. There are several limitations to the effectiveness of this traditional method:

  • Such data is restricted, as in-depth internal data is not publicly available, so insights into the true cause of an incident may be missed
  • The information is often somewhat out-of-date, as its relevance can only be analysed and realised after a significant incident.
  • Every incident has a unique set of circumstances, so without sufficient big data to start seeing a pattern, it’s hard to draw conclusions from an individual incident to help prevent future safety issues.

Therefore, while useful, this traditional data is hard to translate into proactive preventative action.

Data-driven decisions to manage marine risk

Through the advent of big data, there is now a data source with full, clear insights from across the industry. Combined with peer-reviewed statistical analysis, this provides the basis for the maritime industry’s most effective decision-support safety system, showing not only the risks you face, but also how to solve them.

Advantages of big data for maritime risk management

The greater volume of information you have about past issues, the more accurate your knowledge for anticipating and preventing future problems.

This is because:

  1. In understanding one event, you can see how it causes another
  2. As you have this data early, the cause-effect chain can be broken before an incident happens.

In short, with sufficient, varied and up-to-date data, it is possible to predict the future with increasing accuracy and stop problems before they start.

Furthermore, if any future issues do occur, a comprehensive big data gathering system will ensure these are added swiftly to the knowledge centre. With this extra information at your fingertips, such issues can be analysed swiftly and are more likely to be solved before they cause a serious incident.

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