Big Data paves a new path for all businesses and industries


By Eng.Hessa AlMalek

Executive Director of Maritime Transport, the UAE Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime

The age of digitalization has made all industries increasingly efficient, but at the cost of equally becoming vulnerable to cyber breaches. As it pertains to shipping, this is visibly apparent when taking the concept of ‘big data’ into consideration. As the name would suggest, big data refers to a large amount of information, much of which allows industries and businesses to draw conclusions and strive towards greater efficiency and optimization. During this fourth industrial revolution, big data has revolutionized multiple industries and ultimately re-shaped the world of business. In regards to maritime, this is now also significantly extending to heavier usage in ports and logistics, something which is opening new doors for industry enlightenment but also susceptibility.

Studies have shown that when it comes to big data in 2019, the shipping industry produces anywhere between 100-120 million data points daily, and this consists of information extracted from ports and vessels. The sheer size of this data makes it nearly impossible to store and process by normal means. However, the significance of big data lies in the advantage which industry players like ship owners, ship charterers, ports and other maritime entities are presented. Logistically speaking, big data can provide relevant information regarding weather, port delays, unexpected repairs, and even data acquired from sensors and traffic management systems like GPS (Global Positioning System) and RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification). While much of this information was already available in one form or the other, the scale and speed at which big data enables it to now be accessible is improving productivity like never before.

In an industry that has long been perceived as traditional, this digital progression is helping shed a stigma that has relentlessly hovered over the global shipping sector, while simultaneously allowing it to reach new heights. As the industry evolves and technology advances on a global scale, these efforts are all but guaranteed to consolidate for a greater good. Throughout the Middle East region, companies like Maqta Gateway LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports, is leveraging big data to effectively digitalize trade and enhance the regional maritime sector. France’s CMA CGM has been using Traxens technology to equip container ships, and Germany’s Port of Hamburg adopted a smartPort initative to guarantee smooth and efficient operations. These are only a few of many maritime players who have embraced technology as the way forward for their respective regions, and in time these strides will transform maritime internationally.

Despite this constant evolution, big data has come with its own set of challenges including the quality of data which is collected. DNV GL reported that in 2017, the US bad data cost businesses 3.1 trillion USD. A figure like that is staggering regardless of which side of it you’re on, but its all the more daunting when it affects your loss column. In addition to the prospect of bad data derailing businesses, cyber security has becoming of pressing importance in today’s day and age. With big data providing such immense value to industries all over the world, maintaining the access to this information should not be prioritized over securing it.

For the maritime sector to successfully continue on its journey of furtherance, network security must be ensured on the vast scale of big data to prevent security problems at the foundation. As the global shipping industry increases its reliance on data in the way in which it is projected to, the integrity of that data and the industry’s ability to trust in it, will remain as important as the data is valuable in itself. Thus, big data is a monumental stepping stone of progression now, but if the industry is not careful, it can become a problem which many may not be equipped for.