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Singapore’s maritime sector facing talent shortages in big data

The skills gap in Singapore is putting big data analytics out of reach for port and logistics companies

A shortage of talent is preventing Singapore’s maritime industry from tapping the benefits of big data analytics to improve vessel performance and lower business costs, a survey has found.

Conducted ahead of Sea Asia 2017, a regional maritime conference, the survey showed that half of Singapore’s maritime leaders recognised the need for more skilled professionals, more so with the move towards smart shipping.

The skills gap is already putting put big data out of reach to organisations in Singapore’s maritime sector. According to the survey, just 12% of respondents said they are currently compiling, analysing and storing big data.

Oh Bee Lock, head of group technology at Singapore-based global port operator PSA International, said there is no question that big data will transform the port and logistics industry.

“From enabling cargo visibility to the development of self-piloting ships, the benefits are clear. With technology changing rapidly today, the industry will develop slower than others if it does not harness and use big data successfully,” he said.

Oh called for the maritime industry to develop a pool of workers who are trained to collect and use the large amounts of data, and “make it more interesting for big data professionals to join the industry”.

“Only with a competent set of professionals can the opportunities provided by big data be leveraged effectively,” he said.

Oskar Levander, vice-president of innovation for marine at Rolls-Royce, noted that with the global move towards smart technologies, it is crucial that all stakeholders recognise the need to change with the times and work together to keep up.

“Big data has the potential to change and disrupt the maritime sector, changing the way services are offered and allowing new players with different skills sets to enter the market,” he said.

“The evolution of technology means that the competitive landscape for the maritime industry is also changing quickly. It is therefore crucial for the industry to come together and collaborate with one another and the government to accelerate innovation, improve processes and create value,” he added.

Big data initiatives underway

The shortage of talent, however, has not put a brake on the big data analytics initiatives that are being rolled out in Singapore’s maritime sector.

In November 2015, Singapore technology firm Ascenz developed a vessel performance management system to capture and transmit shipboard data, such as fuel consumption and engine performance, to shore for analysis. This will enable ship owners to optimise vessel performance and potentially lower maintenance cost.

Singapore’s Maritime Port Authority has also partnered with IBM to develop and test-bed analytics technologies aimed at improving maritime and port operations to cater to increasing growth in vessel traffic in Singapore, one of the busiest ports in the world.

Each year, around 130,000 ships call at Singapore, with one ship arriving or leaving every two to three minutes. IBM will create a platform that uses real-time data on vessel positions and weather to prevent collisions between ships.

The partnership will also uncover new methods for sense-making and aid in event monitoring to detect unusual behaviour of vessels and prevent illegal bunkering through fusion analytics, anomaly detection and data mining.

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