The clear benefits of transparent exchange of information

Data
August 2, 2021

There are multiple ways to optimize shipping and make it more sustainable. One worthy approach is by investing in new fuel alternatives. Although the technological developments are promising, the political debate about the fuel of choice is dividing the industry and slowing progress down. In addition, when cleaner fuels become available beyond the pilot stage, we will still have to renew the whole global fleet of over 100,000 vessels and invest in the global infrastructure of supplying these new forms of fuel. That’s a huge, expensive task — and it will take a great deal of time. 

Meanwhile, we are aware that the lack of transparency across the sector and the information ambiguity caused by it is the root cause of many of the inefficiencies that the industry experiences today. Unlike the development and implementation of new fuels, this is a problem we can solve immediately — if only the industry will collaborate.

Many inefficiencies in shipping are caused because various parties involved in a  port call do not, at present, sufficiently share operational data and information. Of the delays in a vessel’s journey, roughly 80% occur at the port sides of the journey. Yet in terms of time, the time spent at port is normally about 15 – 40% of the journey, differing per trade and journey. The reason for the port side delays is because a vessel’s time at port is the least transparent and the least predictable part of its end-to-end journey. 

As a consequence of these challenges, ship operators build in margins. In terms of time, they hurry to arrive at port early to ensure that they’re well in time to meet their berth windows.…oftentimes to sit idle as the stakeholders in a port are not ready, wasting unnecessary fuel on the approach. If something goes awry, if one factor changes in planning in the port, it causes a delay, and that delay may be catalyzed through the lack of data sharing between these parties. Furthermore, these delays cascade through the logistic chain from the port to the hinterland. 

The fact that information is not transparent and not shared real-time digitally, makes it very difficult for shipping companies to adjust their schedules according to activity in the port. If a trusted, standardized exchange of critical information in a port community could be facilitated, swapping data back and forth between the port and visiting vessels, then the operators would not need to build in these wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary margins. As a result, they can shorten port stay and maximize the utilization of their assets at the same operational costs. 

Not to mention that improved communication between all the parties involved in a port call would also allow reducing greenhouse gas emissions substantially. Vessels sailing at optimal speed consume less fuel and, as such, emit less CO2. In the short term, the transparent exchange of information is a far faster and more effective way to make shipping more sustainable as we work in parallel towards adopting new fuel types. 

In the short term, the transparent exchange of information is a far faster and more effective way to make shipping more sustainable as we work in parallel towards adopting new fuel types. 

Surveys show that the main reason shipping terminals, operators, vessel owners, and so forth do not wish to share information in an open and transparent manner is the fear that this would harm their competitive position. We recognize that some of the scheduling information, especially in the bulk trade, can be commercially sensitive owing to the fluctuating prices of the commodities. To ensure that planning information is only used for the right purpose, we’ve introduced in our platform a robust data authorization model. It allows a data owner to share data to authorized stakeholders and control what information is visible by what party without adding operational overhead or delays.

In container trade, the information that would need to be shared on a single, cohesive platform to facilitate JIT arrivals is, in fact, already being distributed (albeit ineffectively). Companies already provide this data on their websites without any negative impact on competitiveness. By sharing this information openly, efficiently, all will benefit. There will be substantial cost savings for operators, in addition to essential emissions reduction. These are messages that the industry at large must come to understand. 

At PortXchange, we believe in the democratization of data, enabling parties to share information for port call optimization openly. Why? The system that needs to be instituted cannot function properly with ‘paywalls’ or silos, keeping the elements of a port’s operations in a ‘black box’ and creating barriers for parties to optimize processes and improve services. The current siloed and competitive-driven way of working doesn’t allow information to flow freely and, as such, hampers port call optimization.

At PortXchange, we believe in the democratization of data, enabling parties to share information for port call optimization openly.

We also understand that certain data can be hard and costly to unlock, moreover creating a secure and reliable IT infrastructure to exchange data does not come for free, and therefore, the data owner should be compensated. But there’s more to data monetization than just selling it. Maritime companies should think about their data as an asset, not a commodity that can be traded. Our experience shows that the value of data operationalization is a lot larger than direct data monetization.

For example, if all parties involved in a port call share their planning data openly, the overall predictability of a port call will be improved. As a result, the far more efficient allocation of staff and other resources can be achieved, drastically cutting the expensive idle time that eats into the operators’ bottom lines. Data should be used to gain valuable insights for long-term operational gains, not as a direct revenue generator.

Fears that the transparent sharing of information needed for optimized port calls will yield up confidential data are unfounded. We have taken great care to ensure that only the information essential to more efficient arrivals — much of which is readily but haphazardly provided on operators’ own websites — is shared, while sensitive information remains safeguarded and confidential. With transparency, business will not suffer. No one is going to do worse. Instead, we can all do better. 

In our joint effort to digitalize the shipping industry and make it more collaborative, I call on other leaders in the digital maritime domain not to copy the flawed competitive model of information asymmetry, and join us in our quest to democratize data for port call optimization. I believe this is the only way to achieve port call optimization within a port community, and between connected ports. Through clear data authorization models and incentives for parties that have developed highly reliable and accurate data streams, I believe this can be achieved together with creating solid ROIs for individual companies unlocking and sharing their data with their stakeholders.

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About the author

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Sjoerd de Jager
Managing Director

Sjoerd oversees the overall company mission, vision, and strategy to accelerate the further PortXchange expansion. He is driven by a relentless focus on innovation to enable the maritime industry to become more sustainable and efficient.