Start your digital journey with AIS data

2 September, 2018 |

Start your digital journey with AIS data

In our recently published whitepaper, we discussed the four stages of the digital journey: Traditional, Connected, Smart, and Autonomous. The Traditional operation is characterized by manual data collection through noon reports while the Connected operation is enabled when systems/sensors are connected to an automated data collection system sending data to an onshore facility for further analysis. Smart operation relies on technologies to automatically analyse data in real time, enhanced by machine learning. Finally, in Autonomous operation, data collection, performance analytics, and decision-making are all automated and driven by artificial intelligence.

Moving from the Traditional phase does not necessarily mean investing to an onboard data collection system from the outset.

Combining Automatic Identification System (AIS) data with other sources (manually reported or publicly available data) can enable valuable insights and be an intermediate step in the digital journey. In this blog post I will share examples how AIS data can be exploited beyond the original intention (navigational safety and reducing risks of collisions). For example:

  • Individual vessel (or fleet) tracking enabling shore-side situational awareness and planning
  • Vessel performance analysis and voyage optimization (speed profile or route)
  • Global fleet insights and benchmarking

Increasing transparency and improving daily operations

The most obvious and widely used application is vessel tracking. Subject to service availability and supported by the development in satellite AIS (S-AIS) technology, updates on vessel position, status and ETA can be obtained hourly (or more frequently). This is a leap forward from the daily updates through noon reports. Vessel positions can be combined with meteorological databases, showing the forecasted weather conditions (or encountered weather) across the vessel’s route. All this enables better planning, analysis and optimization of operations and, indeed, many owners/operators utilize such services already.

Another opportunity presented by AIS data is improving the transparency provided by daily consumption through noon reports. Noon reports typically contain the vessel’s daily fuel consumption and average speed/prevailing weather conditions. This provides a single data point per day and has inherent limitations if used for vessel performance analysis or tracking. With AIS, it is possible to break down the daily consumption to 24 (or more) data points covering a wider range of speeds and weather conditions. Combined with advanced modelling and normalisation methods, this can turn daily reported fuel consumptions into meaningful KPIs (for example, normalised fuel consumption at a given speed/weather) giving an insight on vessel performance.

On a voyage level, in addition to monitoring, planning and optimizing the current voyages, historic AIS data analysis can provide useful insights and KPIs: for example, speed profile analysis or comparison of sailed distances for the same vessel/route, identifying opportunities for speed and route optimization.

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Generating insights for the global fleet

The very nature of AIS being “publicly available” data makes it possible to generate insights across the global fleet, especially when combined with other data sources such as global fleet registers containing vessel technical parameters and characteristics. The possibilities are many and well publicized: from aggregated fleet metrics such as average speed or utilization to port congestion, turnaround or waiting times and, even, predicting dry-docking capacity or detecting if a vessel is heading to lay-up or breaking facility. Aggregated fleet insights can be used to benchmark an individual vessel/organization against industry or peers. In addition, by creating models (or digital twins) of each vessel in the global fleet, it is possible to estimate fuel consumption or emissions based on vessel activity.

This can transform AIS data to a powerful source of global shipping consumption/emissions data and, indeed, such models are already being used for regulatory policy, environmental or economic studies.

The underlying models/assumptions for each vessel may contain unknowns and uncertainties (for example, hull/engine condition variations or errors/gaps in the AIS data). This creates a trade-off between accuracy for an individual vessel analysis (which can be partially mitigated through daily consumption reports) and an adequately sized sample (which can only be achieved with public/AIS data).

A first step in the digital journey

AIS data is already being exploited beyond its original intention of navigational safety. It can provide vessel owners/operators with a cost-effective way of tracking their fleet, planning and optimizing their voyages and improving the transparency of noon reports. At the same time, AIS data can unlock insights about the global fleet which, in turn, can benefit not only regulators and policy makers but also individual owners/operators.  For different organizations, a digital strategy may translate to investment in onboard data collection systems or sensors, automatic real-time data analysis or, ultimately, some form of autonomous operation.  For organizations in the Traditional phase, exploiting the possibilities presented by AIS data can be a risk-managed and cost-effective first step in the digital journey.

Want to find out more? Get in touch >

Dimitris Argyros
Senior Portfolio Manager, Eniram

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