The lack of data sharing in the shipping industry is, once again, in the spotlight.
Unfortunately data sharing for the greater good of the industry is not yet a widespread practice even when, ironically, information sharing is what shipowners are likely to need most to succesfully navigate the ever-increasing commercial, technical and regulatory pressures they face.
For instance, some vessel owners who have begun sharing data with equipment suppliers are seeing improved vessel efficiency and maintenance cost reductions by transferring engine performance and other vessel condition data from ships to shore-based centres for analysis.
Vessel owners in multiple sectors over time will be required to disclose information on emissions to demonstrate efficiency improvements to the IMO, regional authorities, such as the European Union, and national organisations, including the US Coast Guard.
Route and voyage planning data is becoming increasingly valuable to e-navigation developments while improving navigational safety and facilitating regulatory compliance.
In fact, navigational regulations were the impetus for developing the Maritime Connectivity Platform (MCP) vechicle for data sharing in the shipping industry in the first place.
The MCP is an open-source digital maritime domain that grew out of the desire to support e-navigation initiatives in the Baltic Sea and South Korea during the last 10 years.
Just this month, MCP backers signed on to the creation of the Maritime Connectivity Platform Consortium (MCC) to "facilitate secure information exchange, not only within e-navigation but the maritime domain at large," as MCC secretary general Thomas Christensen told Maritime Digialisation & Communciations.
Crucially, the MCP has focused on offering secure information exchange, recognising that the shipping industry needed to have "trusted information exchange ... we need to know who's actually exchanging the information," as Mr Christensen put it.
Mr Christensen said he has hopes that the MCP will make significant progress in furthering data sharing practices in the shipping industry, and I believe the MCP could have the desired effect on attitudes within the industry ... if there is a proactive attitude on the part of vessel owners, charterers, managers, classification societies, regulators and system manufacturers.
In February 2018, I asked, who would be willing to commercially operate the MCP to promote uptake of the platform alongside the potential free services it would facilitate. Back then, I suggested commercial interest could come from a satellite operator, communications services provider, a classification society, or an international organisation, perhaps even IMO.
None have yet come forward, although the MCC says membership in the MCP community has grown and at least two seaparate commercial groups are interested and considering commercial applications of the platform.
MCP is a resource that shipping organisations would be wise not to overlook.
It has the capability to be utilised to enhance communications, share information and to tackle the new commercial realities of stricter environmental regulations, tighter logistics schedules and squeezed margins.
It can enable shipping companies to adopt greater levels of digitalisation and in the longer term become a facility for storing information for autonomous shipping.
But shipping needs to take advantage of the opportunity while it is still centre stage.
Information will be shared at Riviera Maritime Media's conferences that tackle the challenges of ship emissions at the upcoming Americas Sulphur Cap Conference, in Houston, US, in March and Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference, Exhibition & Awards in Europe in May.