Why standardisation is the key to future maritime industry success

In this article, RightShip CEO Steen Lund discusses the ways in which we can better standardise industry practices to build robust digital systems and enhanced operations. 

Improved standardisation is greatly needed within the maritime industry, particularly as we look to the future. It is a requirement for industry partnerships and is a prerequisite in the process of becoming technology agnostic.  

Unfortunately, at present, the maritime industry is anything but standardised. Take for example aviation – there is incredible standardisation across the function of airports and the technology used to build and power planes. By contrast, ships can be built anywhere in the world, with much development occurring particularly in China, Korea and Japan.  

However, the design, engineering manufacturing, equipment and technology varies significantly and is spread across a diverse array of global contributors. The lack of standardisation creates challenges in terms of the way data from the operation of vessels is ultimately ingested. That said, we are optimistic about what can be done moving forward.  


A sustainable framework  

In 2012, RightShip introduced an industry standard for GHG emissions in the form of our GHG Rating. It quickly became a go-to standard for that output. We modelled the emissions data around EEDI and EVDI indexes, and built a model on top of that to prove how sustainable a vessel would be in design. 

This helped enhance standardisation as customers could compare a vessel built at shipyard A in one country, to shipyard B in another country and continuously pursue design and build optimisations measured in terms of Co2 per tonne mile. For that reason, the design based GHG emissions measurements by RightShip have served the industry very well as a standard.  

However, there is a great deal more that can be achieved. For example, RightShip is currently working to make emissions based on actual fuel consumption, speed and distance travelled available on our Platform in an EEOI output, or as we like to call it – RSOI – RightShip Operational Indicator. This will allow any data source – noon report as well as sensor enabled hardware on board vessels – to feed the required data points. When combined with the cargo, a carbon accounting outcome is derived and the RightShip Platform becomes the means of standardisation of operational data produced by any relevant means to be made available to industry partners.  

Increasingly, we work to use our Platform as the repository of information, so we standardise how data is ingested from a diverse group of stakeholders, with the aim of becoming technology agnostic, which means no matter who brings the data forward, conclusive use can be made of us for the benefit of multiple users. 


Standardisation of vetting   

In addition, we aim to increase broader standardisation through our expanded vetting criteria. In the past, 20 data points have defined the vetting criteria we hold vessels against. While charterers may require additional bespoke data points unique to their needs, a commonality has been determined, allowing us to expand the data points to validate. This has resulted in the RightShip vetting criteria growing to 50 data points – a standard that is now in place for the industry to use and the single standard RightShip will deploy by June 30th 2021.   

There is more to do, though. For example, a charterer may vet a vessel, but go on to impose limitation on the owner-operator in the contract. For example, the owner may need crew change flexibility, and the charterer may not support that and rather require the owner to commit that crew is changed before a new charter commences. This becomes an imposition on our criteria. If the care of the seafarer is compromised after the vetting has taken place, human rights standards are impacted. That’s why we need better acceptance of industry standards from all supply chain participants, and ongoing adherence to expectations.   


Technology for standardisation innovation   

Technology gives us a great deal of inspiration. There are many products that aren’t designed for shipping necessarily, but can have strong relevance in our business operations. We look beyond our own maritime sector for best practice applications and be curious about what we don’t know.    

Traditionally, owners have wanted solutions that fit with their style of operation and existing comfort with suppliers. For example, many will have a preferred engine manufacturer or a specific satellite navigation system. It is worth considering the future prospect of asset standardisation, though. While this may presently feel like an insurmountable task, asset standardisation could invoke broad industry disruption.  

With the advent of increasingly viable future fuels and the design of optimal vessels, could the industry come together to create a practical model where data and design meets decarbonisation? I see no reason why we wouldn’t try to determine what that takes. If successful, it would have a significant impact on standardisation across the industry.