Shipping’s Own Pantheon of Greats

Poseidon Wants You…

In times of crisis, it is only natural for people to invoke the power of the Gods. Calling on them for divine intervention. With shipping facing up to some pretty tough challenges, it is not surprising to have deities lined up as the answer to all our problems. But would we be better looking to our mortal realm for answers?

WHO YA GONNA CALL?

Perhaps the two biggest challenges facing shipping, and indeed the entire maritime industry (aside from making money, obviously), are the need to avoid polluting the planet and to look after seafarers.

It is to this rather tricky backdrop, that we have seen a sudden rush to invoke the spirit of all things holy. The marketing bods have begun to channel their inner Athenian, calling on the Gods for catchy names and snappy visuals. It’s enough to make Zeus blush, and the spirit and names of Poseidon and Neptune are plastered onto worthy causes and to sell ideas.

This isn’t a new concept. The logo used by Starbucks is a twin-tailed Siren, a dangerous but beautiful sea creature from Greek mythology. Versace? Well, their logo is based on the Greek mythological god, Medusa. Even Nike…yes, she is the Greek goddess of victory. Even cleaning products have muscled in on the trend, with Ajax having cleaned up in battle without the help of the Gods — well it would make sense to name your soap powder after such power.

Who though are we really talking with, or calling out to? The Gulf of Guinea declaration on piracy, for instance, will the pirates sit down and listen? Are we just shouting into the void — or do the declarations of intent mean anything other than a PR exercise? Are they just a hook to hang media interest on, or is there more to it? There is a real worry that we are just talking to ourselves, salving our own conscience.

GODS OF GOOD THINGS

With shipping in need of some new heroes with old ideals, uppermost in this push we have naturally looked to the old stalwarts of Poseidon/Neptune. The Greek and Roman incarnations of the sea.

The Poseidon Principles are a global framework for integrating climate considerations into “responsible ship finance” and lending decisions. Establishing a global framework for assessing and disclosing the climate alignment of ship finance portfolios. Clean ships good, dirty ships bad.

Signatories represent a bank loan portfolio to global shipping of more than US$150 billion — over a third of the global ship finance portfolio. The ideas is that this will not only improve financial decision-making but also shape a better future for the maritime industry and for society. With pressure from lenders, borrowers will have to get onboard the decarbonisation voyage. Or so runs the theory.

While Neptune has been used as the poster boy for a declaration, an important one at that. The Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change aims to promote and protect the welfare of seafarers. It was launched in response to the crew change crisis that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of seafarers being trapped on ships because of coronavirus-related travel bans.

WHAT OF KNOWLEDGE?

Cleaning the seas and getting our seafarers home are vital and noble causes. Hopefully, they can both deliver on their very worthy aims. Even as we look to a potential future of autonomous ships, we should never underestimate the importance of seafarers. Those who do, or indeed have been down to the sea in ships are vital to our industry and will forever remain so.

Anyway, away from the snappy deity-based branding, and the need to fix problems what are the longer-term issues and ways of improving shipping? How can we make a difference? That is the real key, it is what gets me out of bed and allows me to earn a living.

What indeed then, are the ways and means that we can achieve what shipping has to do, using the power of maritime informatics to win the battles, to slay the demons and to make the Gods smile on us?

The foundations for shipping’s temple are built upon the disciplines of Maritime Informatics. From common standards to digitalisation, sustainability, data sharing, data management and data analytics. These are woven into the golden fleece, that we modern maritime argonauts must wear. What are the battles and fantastic journey’s we are on?

THIS IS OUR QUEST

It is important that we remain focused on what we are trying to do for shipping, and why. The entire purpose of our quest is to ensure that maritime commerce is all it can and should be. That the decisions made are good, that actions taken are right, and that the results stack up.

That is what maritime informatics is all about, this is the means to enhance decision-making processes. Using, digital data sharing to allow all parties to come together to have situational awareness, to make coordinated decisions and to make the most of what we have to and increase the safety and efficiency of operations. That is the challenge.

A task to ultimately digitally transform shipping, through the use of technology, with data management, analytics and visualisation at its core. One of the major leaps forward is that all this data allows us to understand ourselves, our people, our assets, our clients and the means of delivering for all of them.

While we hear a lot of buzz words and new concepts, one of them is “Spatio-temporal Analytics”. Sounds impressive and daunting, doesn’t it? At its core though, it is simply about data across shipping within space and time. About an understanding of the “where and when”. Lest we forget, that is what shipping has always been good at. The core of navigation is where am I now, and where will I be then?

WHO ARE OUR HEROES?

So, our noble cause and course are laid out before us. We are charged with the quest to use the data that shipping produces to better understand what is happening and to then make sure we use it to improve or make better decisions.

The goal is to make every data point, every interaction, every ounce of effort expended into a learning and improvement opportunity. We can learn from what has gone before, and we can alter the future by applying where, what, how and when we do things today.

Shipping has been at many pivotal points in its long history. Today it stands on a crossroads like no other. The prize for the right choices are glittering, efficiencies, profitability, enhanced reputations and happier people. If we get it wrong? Well, shipping will be eaten away by the logistics giants who live in mammoth warehouses, often with ominous smiles painted on the side of them. Assuming we are all up for the challenge and let’s face it, we don’t have much choice.

We will need some Gods of our own to look up to, to venerate and be guided by. Who then would be the idols of Maritime Informatics? Well, we couldn’t pick just one, we have a pantheon to choose to. I suggest we look to Athena the Goddess of Wisdom, Metis Goddess of cunning and wise council, Prometheus the God of forethought and not forgetting dear old Apollo the God of Knowledge. We need mortal heroes too of course, the shipowners with vision, the technologists with understanding, and the seafarers who have all the answers.

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Captain Stu

Making maritime informatics all it can and should be…asking questions, and finding answers.