BIG DATA & Maritime: The Downside

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

January 28, 2016

  • Tony Baker, Loss Prevention Director
  • Colin Gillespie, Deputy Loss Prevention Director
  • Tony Baker, Loss Prevention Director Tony Baker, Loss Prevention Director
  • Colin Gillespie, Deputy Loss Prevention Director Colin Gillespie, Deputy Loss Prevention Director

North P&I Club Warns on Downsides of "Big Data" on Ships

There is no question that the era of "Big Data" -- and all that those two words encompass -- will be transformational in the maritime market for the coming generation. There is no stopping the data trend, and today's generation demands it from a social aspect and needs it to be efficient in business operation. While the upside to big data has been recorded often, the North P&I Club has warned its members that despite the enormous benefits of digital technology on and around ships, there may also be some downsides. In addition to its recent warning on cyber threats, the club highlights some less obvious risks from the digital age, including video calls, emails, mobile devices and even 3D printing.
"While many ships now offer technology such as satellite video calling to keep crews in touch with loved ones back home, care should be taken to ensure this does not make matters worse," said  Tony Baker, Loss Prevention Director. "For some seafarers, having easy access to friends, family and their ongoing domestic problems could lead to increased anxiety compared to the traditional clean break of departure."
Baker says digital technology may also be compounding the isolation problems at sea by reducing social interaction on board. "Rather than chat, play games or even watch videos with other crew members, it is now all too easy to for seafarers to retreat to their cabins with their mobile devices.
It is in the general interests of the ship operator, vessel and crew to ensure a decent level of social interaction on board. Occasionally getting out the dart board, playing cards or board games will forge relationships and help the crew to be happy. A happy crew works more effectively, more efficiently and is more likely to be able to help individuals deal with any issues of isolation or anxiety."
In a separate development, North warns shipowners to be aware of potential criminal use of 3D scanners and printers. These are apparently now being used to clone and replace the security seals on shipping containers after break-ins. "The seals can be made within 10 minutes and include all the relevant identification marks, so thefts may remain undetected until containers reach their final destinations," said Colin Gillespie, Deputy Loss Prevention Director.
"The digital age has brought extraordinary benefits to the shipping industry and to crews, particularly in terms of improved safety, efficiency and communications," said Gillespie. "However, it is important for shipowners and seafarers not to let digital technology completely replace vital shipboard activities such as social interaction, teambuilding and a hands-on, common-sense approach to safety and security."
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