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Sensors at sea

Big data #2: The future of maritime maintenance

Big data is causing a ripple of excitement in the maritime industry. While the relationship between the trend and sector is still relatively young, the signs look promising. In fact, big data is already having an impact on shipping—particularly when it comes to maintenance and safety.

The maritime industry typically lags behind other sectors in implementing digital technologies. A prime example is high-speed Internet. At sea, ships lack access to land-based communication infrastructure, instead relying on patchy satellite connectivity that hinders quick data transfer between vessel and shore. However, as the technology improves, so too do connection speeds. This in turn facilitates a more proactive approach to maintenance.

In ship shape

Maintenance traditionally follows the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Although this outlook may seem logical on the surface, it is now falling out of favor with shipping companies. Since on-board machinery is usually large, complex, and difficult to access, repairs are often time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes even dangerous. To avoid long periods of downtime, loss of revenue, and risk to health and safety, predictive maintenance is crucial.

Sensing a faultshutterstock_235417060

So what does the method entail? Sensors attached to equipment around a ship constantly capture performance data. Thanks to ever-improving ship-to-shore connectivity, analysts stationed onshore receive this data in real time. They then report any anomalies to repair workers who can respond before a major fault occurs. This process saves shipping companies time and money and reduces the risk of serious accidents—both at sea and during maintenance.


What’s more, whereas the maritime sector had, until recently, used regular industrial equipment to monitor performance, it now deploys marine-standard sensor technology.  This means shipbuilders and OEMs can optimize future designs based on the data captured by specially-built sensors on older ships. In this way, they are able to construct more stable, streamlined, and ultimately safer vessels.

Safer, greener, and more efficient

By leveraging big data and predictive analytics, the maritime industry is optimizing both maintenance practices and ship design. Consequently, shipping companies are operating with increasing safety and efficiency. The next and final instalment in this series examines how the trend is set to enhance route planning and address environmental concerns.

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