Articles written by Andrew Craston

Holiday report off Sanlucar, IT: swimming, sunbathing, shipspotting…

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Sanlucar de Barrameda, the seaside resort and fishing port (Bonanza) at the mouth of the Rio Guadalquivir in SW Andalusia, is a unique location for ship spotters. Lying on the beautiful sandy beach or swimming in the 30° warm water, you see all kinds of vessels sailing by – numerous fishing cutters chugging into the nearby harbour and cruise liners, container ships or tankers sailing up river to Seville or returning to the Atlantic. The Rio Guadalquivir is navigable as far as Seville, around 60 miles further north, and the capital of Andalusia is not only a popular destination for cruise liners but also a regular port of call for various cargo ships.


On August 10, for example, the 30,000-ton P&O cruise liner ADONIA sailed past the Sanlucar sunbathers heading from Seville into the Atlantic en route to her next port of call, Gibraltar.


A cargo ship regularly seen off the beaches of Sanlucar is the OPDR LISBOA, a 698-TEU container ship operated by the Oldenburg-Portugiesische Dampfschiffs-Reederei (OPDR) that runs a shuttle service between Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Casablanca and Seville. When seen sailing past the Sanlucar swimmers on August 20, the LISBOA had left Seville the day before and was heading for Las Palmas where it docked on August 22.

On six evenings at low tide in August the Sanlucar beach also stages professional horse races that attract crowds of up to 30,000 – an unparalleled sporting event held since 1845. It also offers the horseracing spectators the uniquely remarkable sight of thousands of horsepower sailing past ten horsepower on the sand.



Big Data – good for your business?

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One of today’s biggest buzzwords is Big Data. But what exactly does it mean? And where does Big Data start? As a data-driven company, we’d like to give you a quick introduction to the world of Big Data – and tell you how it can be good for your business.


What is Big Data? Maybe we should start by defining when data is big. Of course opinions vary but one common definition is that data are big when they don’t fit onto one disk – and that means anything in excess of 5 terabyte (TB). But what does a number like that mean in practice? If Google were to catalogue and index all the books in the world, it would be impossible to load all this data onto a single data. That’s certainly Big Data.


Big Data have been around for some time but it’s only in recent years that the advances in computing power and artificial intelligence (AI) have made data science a really useful discipline that enables Big Data to be put to good use. Physics, and in particular astrophysics, was one of the fields where Big Data were first collected and, interestingly enough, many data scientists used to be post-doc physicists.


So how does data science work? Put simply, it involves taking raw data and processing it to produce a data set from which statistical models can be developed, analyses undertaken or machine learning predictions generated. Based on these findings, data scientists can develop data-driven products and/or communicate what they’ve learned via reports, blogs or visualisations. Good data science teams – and data scientists usually work in teams – have a number of skills: knowing which questions to ask; interpreting the data collected well; and understanding the structure of data. This is what is known as substantive expertise. And that’s what we’ve got at FleetMon – as well as lots of Big Data. We process 3,500 AIS reports per second – that’s 300 million a day – and store over 100 TB of raw AIS data or around 410 billion reports in all! And what good is that for your business? As a FleetMon customer you can view every single AIS report for the past three years or so. And that’s just one way you benefit from our Big Data.

Digital economy increasingly impacting shipping – are you prepared?

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The recently published PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) German Shipping Survey 2017 revealed that one in two German shipping companies have already been heavily impacted by digitalisation and 84% expect online portals to grow in importance.


Once a year, PwC publishes its survey of German shipping companies. This report published in July 2017 highlighted the increasing impact of digitalisation on shipping. More than 80% of German shipping companies expect online applications soon to become a matter of course for customers, e.g. booking sea-borne transport via an online portal. The shipping companies interviewed have been impacted to a differing extent by the rise of the digital economy. Around half said they had been affected by major changes, 41% less so and 10% felt they had not been affected at all.

PwC highlights the dangers of ignoring digitalisation, pointing out that far too many shipping companies are lulling themselves into a false sense of security by thinking that digitalisation will simply sail by and leave their traditional business models unaffected. Although 57% of the interviewees judged themselves to be digitally competent, 43% suspected digital deficiencies and thought they weren’t well equipped for the challenges of the digital economy. A PwC expert quoted in the report believes that the platform effect evident in other industries could well become a feature of shipping.

This is where FleetMon can provide valuable assistance. Dozens of online platforms already exist for ship owners, operators or charterers to upload their content. At FleetMon we already have the relevant content, e.g. ETAs, historical tracking data, event handling, alerting, etc. It’s there for you to access – and equip yourself for the digitalised future of shipping.

By the way, this PwC survey also brought some good news: over 70% of the interviewees predicted global ship-borne cargo volumes would increase over the next five years. With light now appearing at the end of the shipping tunnel it’s a good time to invest in digitalisation to avoid any digital deficiencies.