Most managers in most industries today would agree that data and workflow automation is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have, and an essential part of an operations plan. Data helps you to build understanding, identify opportunities for greater efficiencies and can, ultimately, help you reduce costs. Automation of key processes reduces human error and improves the availability and accuracy of the data available to support decisions. Thanks to Voyager Worldwide, the maritime technology company, that is becoming equally true for maritime navigation.
According to Voyager Worldwide, which has been tracking navigation spending across the global merchant fleet since 2015, many shipping companies are still spending too much on navigation whilst, at the same time, overlooking key compliance requirements resulting in avoidable PSC and vetting issues.
Hayley van Leeuwen at Voyager Worldwide explains: “Using our data, we can tell which ENCs and digital publications vessels have bought and where shipping companies could be saving. Our data shows that even the best run fleets have untapped savings when it comes to navigational expenditure. In one case earlier this year, we identified a vessel that had bought more than $900 of unnecessary ENCs in a single month. We were able to give them the data and tools to halt the overspending and reduce their navigation expenditure significantly.
Overspending like this all adds up, but most of the time it’s going unnoticed because the combination of data analytics needed to spot it and the onboard tools that allow just in time purchasing on a route by route basis are not in place. Often at the same time, Flag and SOLAS mandated nautical publications are also being missed which then exposes companies to avoidable PSC observations and deficiencies.”
So why is it that shipping companies that usually have such a strong focus on operational cost management and compliance should be overspending on ENCs and missing the basics of navigation compliance? Let's dig deeper and look at just some of the reasons for that across the industry:
- Habit Buying: Purchasing is still habitual not trading or data led. Many companies don’t have access to the analysis tools required to automatically check vessel inventories against routes, flag state requirements or technical library requirements.
- Just in case mindset: Vessels continue to carry large numbers of charts and publications onboard (even digital) just in case they need to sail in those waters in the way that they used to with paper charts not taking into account the automated processes that now enable vessels to get access to the information they need anytime, anywhere.
- Lack of data: The data and software needed to manage purchasing and compliance efficiently is often not available to the ship management team.
So, how can data and automation make a difference? Voyager Worldwide has been working with customers for a number of years, helping them to drive down the overall cost of navigation. They provide navigation services to some 25 per cent of the world’s bulk carrier, tanker and container fleet and have identified 4 key areas where marine superintendents and purchasing executives can focus to reduce spending.
Voyager Worldwide's Planning Station automatically identifies the navigational products for safe and compliant navigation
Selecting the most cost-effective service option
With so many different service options available these days – whether it be PAYS, fixed price, an ECDIS plus ENC subscription or a more traditional on-demand model – it can be difficult to work out which service is best for you. For example, a PAYS service will be easy to manage, but data shows that it’s unlikely to be the most cost-effective option for most of the vessels in your fleet.
Taking a data-led approach enables companies to identify the best option service option at a per vessel level to meet their needs and then implement the most effective service mix across a fleet.
More accurate budgeting
Historic sailing data can be used to analyse usage patterns and predict what annual spend should be. That enables ship management to budget navigation costs more accurately. This data is also increasingly used to more accurately predict other operational costs, support budgeting and improve maintenance scheduling. It also provides a clear picture of asset utilisation and trends.
More accurate purchasing onboard
Equipping vessels with the software tools to enable officers to accurately buy the ENCs, navigational charts and publications they need on a route by route basis rather than systematically renewing permits and subscriptions regardless of whether the content is still relevant to the voyage ahead helps to reduce expenditure. Automatically uploading saved routes not only allow ship managers to monitor vessels on a 24/7 basis, but also enables vessel orders to be checked against planned routes to help reduce unnecessary purchasing further.
Analysing usage to reduce overspending
Shipping companies that buy their navigation supplies from Voyager Worldwide have access to unique usage analysis which compares vessel sailing data against the products they are buying to enable overspend to be monitored and addressed by shore-based stakeholders.
Like most things in life, once you have identified the problem areas you can then get on with addressing behaviours and of course measure your progress towards improving performance and optimising spend. It can be very satisfying to seeing how much you are saving on your ENC and digital publication spend month-by-month.
In the digital world, together with automation, data has the potential to underpin most - if not all - compliance management and cost-efficiency efforts. The buying process has changed. With digital navigation, you no longer buy navigation supplies just in case or based on the Captain’s preference… you buy exactly what you need, just in time. And that means you shouldn’t need to buy any supplies that aren’t a requirement of a vessel’s exact trading or navigation compliance requirements. Navigation purchasing can now be about buying more accurately, using data to understand budget variances and identifying areas of overspend and where economies can be gained.
Do this right and you’ll operate more safely and compliantly as well as more efficiently, and drive and encourage your crews and other stakeholders to adopt behaviours that enhance your overall operational efficiency.