Home » Big data in the marine sector: avoiding “Ozone Hole 2.0” and other challenges.

Big data in the marine sector: avoiding “Ozone Hole 2.0” and other challenges.

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Big data in the marine sectorIndustry experts convened last week for a roundtable discussion on the definition of “big data” in the marine sector and the opportunities and challenges associated with it.

Held by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), the roundtable brought together experts from various fields including naval architecture, insurance, environmental research, environmental response, marine engineering, surveying, subsea services, marine consultancy, data management and academic research.

It is widely accepted that analysing and disseminating big data and using it effectively will transform the industry in a positive way.  Its potential applications within the marine sector are tremendous, but questions still exist on how best to collect and analyse such data. Do we accumulate as much data as possible so it is available if and when needed? Or do we only collect data relevant for meeting a particular objective? Who writes the algorithms for collection and decides on the formulae used?

The importance of such decisions can be demonstrated by the decade-long delay in recognising the formation of the ozone hole – measurements of extremely low ozone concentrations made by monitoring satellites were systematically discarded by the computer’s algorithm.

Understanding the state of the environment and impacts of climate change , standardisation of vessel design, making oil and other hazardous materials spill support decisions, improving fuel efficiency (engine monitoring and fuel consumption), voyage optimisation and safety and vessel performance are but a few examples of the way industry can progress with more data and information.

The roundtable highlighted one challenge in particular that might slow down such progress: the concerns associated with sharing data. How can we overcome issues around data ownership and how can we instead achieve success through collaboration between stakeholders?

Maria Kouboura, Senior Technical Advisor at the IMarEST, commented: “Although the marine sector recognises the advantages of big data in terms of value to business, human element,  environmental protection, offshore activities, etc. it hasn’t yet found a way to overcome these challenges.”

The discussion confirmed that the key challenges included those associated with data ownership and sharing, standardisation to avoid disparate types and quality of data, financing the collection of environmental data and the successful marrying of big data with the human element in decision-making.

The IMarEST will produce a white paper report that outlines the outcomes of the discussion and looks at the next steps.  It will explore the ways big data can be used to enhance performance, productivity and safety across the marine sector and to increase ocean knowledge for society as a whole. A Special Interest Group on the topic will also be set up to develop a course of action.


The IMarEST is an international membership body and learned society for all marine professionals. It is the first Institute to bring together marine engineers, marine scientists and marine technologists into one international multi-disciplinary professional body. It is the largest marine organisation of its kind with a worldwide membership of over 17, 000 based in over 128 countries.

Working with the global marine community, the IMarEST promotes the scientific development of marine engineering, science and technology, providing opportunities for the exchange of ideas and practices and upholding the status, standards and expertise of marine professionals worldwide.

The IMarEST works with a growing number of corporate partners offering different levels of support to maritime organisations.  IMarEST ‘Marine Membership’ is open to all companies and organisations, providing access to membership benefits, knowledge-sharing, online promotion and exclusive discounts. The ‘Marine Partner’ initiative is for organisations that work strategically with the IMarEST to create and deliver a bespoke annual programme of activity and premium promotion.

The IMarEST is a respected authority in every maritime country. It is a Non-Governmental Organisation with consultative status at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), observer status at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and it has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), which facilitates its access to other international  intergovernmental meetings where its specialized marine expertise is of particular use, e.g., the United Nations meetings on Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the work of the International Seabed Authority on marine mining. It is a nominated and licensed body of the Engineering Council (UK), a member of the Science Council and has significant links with many other maritime organisations worldwide.

The IMarEST runs a series of industry leading and technically excellent events and conferences as well as publishing the internationally recognised publication, The Marine Professional.


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