Reducing Digital Paperwork

Software does not always reduce workload. It can increase it, if there is a need to enter data into multiple systems, said Panos Hatzikyriakos of Unitized Ocean Transport Limited

One common scenario where software can increase workload is when data needs to be entered into multiple systems.

It is too common for seafarers to have to spend “endless hours in front of PCs,” said Panos Hatzikyriakos, head of health, safety, quality, and environment (HSQE) with Unitized Ocean Transport Limited, speaking at the Tanker Operator Athens event in May.

Shore management relies on ship personnel to input data into a system and send that data to the office. This type of data exchange between the ship and the shore is common in maritime operations and can involve various aspects of vessel management, reporting, and communication.

“The crew may have another one hundred tasks to do, instead of sending emails and filling systems with data. It is kind of a new slavery.”

For some time, people have talked about ‘spreadsheet hell’ onboard, with crew required to enter data into multiple spreadsheets and send them to different places. But now they additionally have to enter data into multiple software systems.

For vessel performance monitoring, the same data sometimes needs to be entered multiple times into different systems, such as into the company ERP system, in different customized spreadsheets requested by the operations department and charterers, he said.

“I don’t know how much time [it takes] but obviously more than 5 minutes.”

Ideally a technology would be available which could automate the input of data into the various systems.

The ease of sending e-mail to ships means that people often add to the work burden.

“Shore personnel get frustrated when the captain doesn’t reply in five minutes,” he said.

Then, miscommunication or incomplete data provided by seafarers can lead to a cycle of endless requests from the office to the ship for clarification or additional information. This communication breakdown can result in inefficiencies, delays, and frustration for both ship personnel and shore management, he said.

Crew do get fed up with endless demands for data. “At our last crew conference in Manilla, a guy said, ‘we send you the data, we never get any answer back. We have not seen any analysis. what is the benefit for us?’”

“We have this massive data coming to the office, what are we doing with the data?

“Instead of having increased effectiveness with digitisation, I think we have stalled it,” he said.

When purchasing new software, a shipping company should ideally first ensure that it can communicate with all the other systems it has, he said.

On the positive side, digital technology has revolutionized many aspects of maritime operations, including passage planning, he said.

People used to spend 5-6 hours on the process of manually plotting a route on paper charts and then transferring the information to forms that was time-consuming and labour-intensive.

With ECDIS, navigators can draw an approximate route directly on the digital chart, and software automatically generates a detailed route, including relevant navigational information.

Although it helps that this software does not need to integrate with any other, he said.

Mr Hatzikyriakos has been impressed by some technologies. “I saw a fantastic presentation of a collaboration between a shipping company and a software developer which demonstrates the innovative use of artificial intelligence (AI) and video analytics technology to enhance safety and operational efficiency in the maritime industry.,” he said.

“The system’s immediate alerts enable shore-based personnel to respond quickly to emerging safety issues, potentially preventing accidents or incidents from escalating. For example,missing safety gear detection (such as a hard hat), inactivity detection (someone not moving for three minutes), smoke detection.”




  LMB-BML 2007 Webmaster & designer: Cmdt. André Jehaes - email