Against the backdrop of Orolia’s recent acquisition of leading Voyage Data Recording company Netwave Systems, Chris Loizou shares his views on data optimisation

In recent years, significant changes and technological innovation has enabled the shipping industry to capture intelligence and information in real time. Companies are increasingly recognising that having the right technological capability and data analytical platforms is critical to being able to drive innovation and operational improvements across their business.

One way to harness the power of data is to exploit information collected on Voyage Data Recorders (VDR). The marine equivalent of black boxes fitted to commercial aircraft have been mandatory on all vessels above 3000GT since 2002. This sophisticated technology is primarily designed for application across a wide range of vessels to record data and adhere to the standards set by the International Maritime Organization particularly the Safety of Life at Sea requirements.

The new IMO Resolution A. 333(90) states that a VDR should collect information from the various sensors on board the ship. It digitises, compresses, and preserves the data in a protective storage device in a storage unit that’s tamper-proof and protected to resist the impact, pressure, heat and extreme shock associated with marine accidents such as collision, sinking, fire and explosion. Resilience, reliability and ease of data extraction is essential.

VDRs help accident investigation teams review the actions taken by a vessel in the hours and minutes prior to an incident in order to establish its cause. As well as understanding what has happened and offering the opportunity to learn lessons, the data from VDRs can also be used to help avoid catastrophic situations. Using the collected data can help inform preventative education and training to improve safety awareness. Processes and procedures can be monitored and reviewed to help save lives at sea. The value of VDR data is through analysis and action.

In addition to the mandatory usage, the VDR can be interfaced with other non-mandatory ship sensors. This allows data that is collected for safety and emergency management to be combined with navigational data to create performance data, with the right analytics platform and analysis. Speed, fuel consumption, route efficiency can be tracked across fleets offering vessel optimisation, commercial and environmental benefits.

Mark van Ede, Sales Director at Netwave, highlights: “As part of the new VDR regulation is the minimum 30 days storage in VDRs, this allows the vessel owner to have detailed information on last voyages which can be sent to shore for performance analysis to help inform the crew in later stages how sailing performance can be improved. In addition to this, the data can be used to submit reports for sailing in Sulphur Emission Control areas and for CO2 reports which will become mandatory by 1 January 2018. With this in mind, the VDR becomes even more of a centrepiece on board.”

As real-time fleet communication becomes economically and technologically more accessible to a wider range of marine vessels, the combined benefits of data analysis also become more attractive. The future of VDR is likely to be scalable variants, where fleet managers can dictate the data they want captured and the technology becomes an operations enabler, as much as a post incident investigation tool.

The factors that make this future viable include, the available of resilient positioning, navigation and timing solutions to ensure accurate, validated and accessible data and a global marine service network to ensure these sophisticated tools are fitted, serviced and supported like any other vital vessel technology, when and where the vessel requires it.

VDR offers exciting opportunities for future fleet development and Orolia with its foundation in resilient PNT and recent Netwave acquisition are in an exciting position to help make this a reality.

As Albert Einsten said: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Key to business success is counting what matters and effective analysis. The value that VDRs bring is the opportunity to seamlessly harness the power of the data that is collected to make informed commercial decisions

Chris Loizou Chris Loizou is Chief Business Development Officer of Orolia, the world leader in resilient positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions that improve the reliability, performance and safety of customers’ critical, remote or high-risk operations. Through its leading Kannad, McMurdo, Sarbe, Spectracom and Spectratime brands, Orolia has more than 400 employees and sales presence worldwide.