Stakeholder Dialogues

Ensuring Safe and Dependable Maritime Shipping through Exhaustive and Ongoing Initiatives Extending beyond Compliance (Excerpt version)

For the maritime industry, safety is a top priority that must always be practiced. International rules concerning safe vessel operation and environmental conservation have been enacted to prevent accidents at sea and ensure the health of maritime traffic throughout the world. The United Nations specialized agency responsible for such maritime governance is the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In this feature, Koji Sekimizu, former secretary-general of the IMO, was invited to talk with Captain Tomoyuki Koyama, a managing corporate officer, about the Group's initiatives related to its material issues - i.e., safety, the environment, and human resources - and the future of maritime governance.

Making Effective Use of International Rules with Safety Management at the Core of Operations

Sekimizu

The history of maritime shipping is also a history of accidents. A major turning point was the sinking of Titanic in 1912. In response to that tragic accident, in 1914 a group of countries adopted the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, commonly known as SOLAS, which was the first of such international treaties. After that, new treaties dealing with safety were adopted as we learned lessons from many accidents, and they became important international rules and standards for the whole world.

Koyama

At the Group, we have worked to heighten sensitivity to maritime rules. For example, we set up a Safety Promotion Committee in 1992 after the frequency of maritime accidents increased in the 1980s. That is when the IMO adopted the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. Safety management was being performed by seafarers in those days, but we decided to position safety management at the center of the Company's management by having the president chair the committee from its inception.

Managing a Multinational Workforce and Training Loyal Seafarers

Koyama

The ISM Code is a framework, but how initiatives are carried out within that framework is the responsibility of each shipping company. The Group has set its own goals and created systems for that purpose, with a view to do whatever is necessary to transport cargo safely and provide high-quality shipping services to customers. We went beyond the framework of the code by establishing our own original safety standards in 1998 called NAV9000. We then introduced those safety standards to shipowners we charter vessels from, and ship-management companies to organize second-party audits of the ships and the management offices. Those audits are not one-way approaches requiring improvement measures. Instead, we emphasize engaging in dialogue with our business partners, and try to have everyone understand the importance of safety management and environmental conservation. Our goal is to have owners and ship-management companies carry out highly effective initiatives that exceed the level of compliance.

Sekimizu

I think that is excellent. Another serious challenge for all maritime shipping companies in the process to comply with the ISM Code was related to how they would deal with diversifying labor forces and globalization. Up until the mid-1970s, the vast majority of seafarers working on ships operated by Japanese companies were Japanese, but now more than 98 percent are foreign nationals. A multinational crew is like an international community on board a ship, and that makes it more difficult than before to raise the quality of operations and ensure that safety measures are properly carried out.

Koyama

We have been responding to that issue in various ways through trial and error. Since there are limits to what can be explained through manuals and other communication tools, we provide training for seafarers through a program called the NYK Maritime College to make sure that the Company's policies and the importance given to safety are widely understood. In an effort to educate and secure highly skilled seafarers, we took the lead in the industry with its establishment of the NYK-TDG Maritime Academy in the Philippines in 2007. By continually implementing these activities, we have trained loyal and highly safety-conscious seafarers who, regardless of their nationality, identify strongly with NYK when working on board ships.

Strengthening Safety Management with an Awareness of Dangers after Learning from an Accident in Tokyo Bay

Koyama

On July 2, 1997, Diamond Grace, an oil tanker operated by the Company, scraped the edge of its starboard bottom in Tokyo Bay on a shoal commonly referred to as Naka-no-Se, causing a major oil spill of around 1,550 kiloliters. It made us keenly realize that causing such a large-scale accident will have a huge impact on society, and even threaten the survival of the Company. The number of employees who do not understand the situation we confronted at that time is increasing now that two decades has passed since the accident. Therefore, to help ensure that the lessons learned from the accident are not forgotten, we produced a video that recreates the accident using computer graphics and includes interviews with personnel who actually experienced it. Since March 2018, we have been using the video as a training tool.

Sekimizu

The maritime shipping industry has the vital role of transporting various types of cargoes and natural resources that are essential for people's everyday lives, but the industry is easily seen only in a poor light when just a single accident occurs. For that reason alone, all employees - right up to top management - must never forget the lessons of past accidents. It is absolutely essential to keep a highest sense of risk management with an understanding that an accident could happen, and continually make genuine efforts to ensure safety.

Looking to Actively Contribute to the Future of Maritime Governance

Koyama

In your previous positions at the IMO and Japan's former Ministry of Transport, you were very involved in the creation of international rules over many years. In that sphere of maritime governance, due to Europe's historical dominance in shipping, European countries and companies wielded the most influence. I think we should become more involved in rule-making in the future, and even create rules that have a distinctively Japanese flavor.

Sekimizu

Looking ahead, the process of rule-making will be closely tied with technological innovations aimed at making vessels safer at sea and more environmentally friendly. Japan's shipping industry should be able to play a leading role in the international rule-making process, if it spearheads that kind of future technological development, takes the lead in the international maritime shipping industry, and operates globally.

Koyama

An example of one of the Company's technological innovations is our ship information management system, or SIMS, that we put into practical use ahead of the global shipping industry. All the data can be shared between vessels and worksites on land. By compiling the data already collected and analyzing it as big data, it can be used for identifying problems, conserving fuel, and implementing other initiatives related to improving vessel safety and reducing environmental load. In addition, the Group aspires to make manned autonomous ships a reality. The purpose of the R&D is to contribute to a higher level of safety by applying autonomous navigation technologies to prevent accidents caused by human elements and to reduce the workloads of crew members.

Sekimizu

In the future, we will need proactive initiatives that will utilize the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data to improve safety and reduce environmental load. I also think that the application of autonomous ship technologies would be useful for improving safety and reducing labor burdens. On the other hand, caution must be necessary when applying artificial intelligence (AI). Ships are operated in the natural environment that is not an artificially controlled area, like roads or railways, and ensuring safety at sea while navigating in such an area is a highly complicated process, so we must carefully consider whether, and the extent to which, computers can be entrusted for the decision-making in navigation, and a legal framework that would allow such navigation must also be considered.

Koyama

Yes, and in line with what you said, when the development of various technologies progresses, it is important that this debate is not led solely by manufacturers and engineers, but also includes the views of us users who are involved in operating ships.

Sekimizu

I agree with you that maritime transport companies with many years of practical experiences should be at the center of the debate. Manufacturers tend to be primarily interested in the possibilities of technology, but the issue is what tools are actually needed for safe shipping operations, and how such tools can be applied.
What international rules will be created and how maritime governance will be shaped in future would be a big issue for the shipping industry, including NYK. Therefore, I urge NYK to become actively involved in the decision-making process so that it can shape its own future. Recognizing that NYK has been successful in the past activities in various fields taking initiatives that would go beyond the simple compliance, I am confident that NYK would also make important contributions to future rule making for the international shipping industry.

(Interviewed in March 2018)

Special Discussion on Today's Technical Challenges Associated with IoT(Excerpt version)

The NYK Group is carrying out a variety of activities aimed at meeting the demands of customers and society for safe, economical, and environmentally friendly shipping operations. Among these activities, the Group is focusing on applying information and communication technology (ICT) in its shipping operations, including the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. In this section, we invited the University of Tokyo professor Masaru Kitsuregawa, who serves as a director general of the National Institute of Informatics, a leader in the field of ICT research and development, and Yasuo Tanaka, president of the Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), which oversees technological development for the NYK Group, to discuss the Group's most recent initiatives and future outlook.

Applying IoT to Improve Business Processes

Q: IoT and big data applications have been attracting attention in recent years. Please begin by explaining how IoT is being applied in society today.

Kitsuregawa

As an example, at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science, we are making use of IoT to analyze nursing care by hospital nurses. We had them attach triaxial accelerometers and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to their pockets, wrist, and waist, so that we could understand how nursing care is actually done. We determined 41 categories of nursing duties, which included measuring blood pressure, taking blood samples, handling intravenous drips, and assisting patients. As the nurses equipped with the sensors repeatedly carry out those activities, we collected and analyzed the data, and created an academic model for automatically distinguishing between the respective duties. We studied the activities carried out by 75 nurses at a hospital over a period of 1,655 days. The results showed that, by far, most of their time was spent inputting data in nursing records. The same results were found by a study at a different hospital. So, ironically, while IT was used to uncover this finding, IT-related data inputs were the cause of the nurses' busy work days. We were able to identify an important issue for nursing work by using big data, so IoT can be expected to help solve such issues in the future.

Tanaka

That demonstrates how problems can be identified by digitizing activities and then analyzing them using IoT and big data.

Kitsuregawa

Big data goes far beyond conventional notions of digitization and enables phenomena to be rendered completely visibly, which opens up new worlds.

Striving to conserve energy in shipping operations by sharing data on land and sea

Q: Please tell us about initiatives being taken by the NYK Group to utilize big data.

Tanaka

In recent years, the Group has been utilizing big data in order to operate vessels more safely and economically. One system that serves as a platform for this is our Ship Information Management System (SIMS), which was first set up in 2008. SIMS has given us an accurate grasp of our operations, and we have been able to manage shipping with a high degree of precision.
In addition to fuel consumption data, vessel speed, wind direction, wind speed, compass bearing, rudder angles and other data related to the status of vessel operations is collected and recorded by SIMS, and the database is shared between workplaces on land and sea via broadcast satellites. As vessels installed with SIMS repeatedly sail their routes, data collected under a wide range of conditions has been accumulated. After analyzing that data, we have classified seven main factors that cause fuel consumption to increase, including weather conditions, vessel speed allotment, and the chosen course.

Kitsuregawa

So, by comparing and analyzing those conditions, you could clarify how to make vessel operation more efficient.

Tanaka

Exactly. We regard the digitization of actual conditions and optimization of vessel operations according to those situations as best practices. We are working to improve our maritime and inland shipping operations as a whole. And determining how to adjust vessel speed to match weather conditions and how to reduce speed by leaving the port ahead of time are a few examples of that.

Kitsuregawa

Those examples make it very clear how the process of business, itself, is gradually being transformed by big data, and how the world is changing with the power of ICT.

Systematically utilizing shipping data with the goal of making vessels safer and more environmentally friendly

Tanaka

By using SIMS, we have been improving fuel efficiency, which, at the same time, allows us to reduce emissions of CO2. In addition, at the design stage of building or remodeling vessels, we use operational data accumulated during shipping operations to make the vessels consume even less fuel with the goal of reducing their environmental burden,

Kitsuregawa

As global competition grows more intense, the environment is one field in which Japan can leverage its competitive advantages going forward.

Tanaka

With a view to promoting a zero-emissions society in the future, the NYK Group commissioned the design of the environment-friendly concept ship NYK Super Eco Ship 2030. To develop technologies for reducing environmental burdens, utilizing data will be extremely important.
We are also launching an initiative for utilizing data to ensure the safety of vessel operations. Because the condition of the main machinery, especially the engines, can be monitored and understood with analysis techniques, we want to use that to identify potential problems and prevent any breakdowns from happening in advance.

Leading the way for innovation in the industry by promoting open platforms

Tanaka

The Group shares data with its joint-research partners, such as shipbuilding companies and equipment manufacturers, for the purpose of raising the performance of vessels and equipment. In order to create an open platform for vessel IoT data, we have been working together with classification organizations in Japan and Europe to set up a data center and comply with ISO standards.

Kitsuregawa

So, through the use of data, the Group is not only trying to improve its own operations, but also the business processes of the entire shipping industry. Companies that have evolved to that level are rare in Japan, and even around the world. I am impressed by such a forward-looking approach.

Tanaka

The Group takes the standpoint of users rather than manufacturers, and I think that is a big factor. In order to make effective use of know-how and data gained from the continual operations of ships, collaboration with manufacturers, universities, and research institutes is essential.

Kitsuregawa

Engineering based on user-derived data will probably become an essential factor for future production. The people who most understand how to use a product after it has been released by the manufacturer are the users, themselves. For that reason, we can be confident that a time will definitely come in the future when user-friendly and environmentally friendly innovations are produced as a result of data being shared by users and manufacturers.

Making the most of leading-edge ICT, including artificial intelligence (AI)

Q: AI has recently been attracting attention, so we would like to hear your views on its potential in the future.

Kitsuregawa

Big data, IoT, and AI are three technical terms that, in practice, largely cover the same domain. The basis for all of them is big data. IoT is the tool for effectively collecting the data, and AI is the means for analyzing it. Nowadays, the sophistication of AI has made rapid progress due to deep learning, but the biggest factor underlying the recent innovations was the ability to utilize vast amounts of data. We could say "data is everything."

Tanaka

Yes, it is important to organize data so that AI can decipher it. In connection to self-driving, a project has begun to research vessels that can navigate automatically, called self-navigating ships. Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is leading a project called i-Shipping with the goal of dramatically improving productivity in the shipping industry. The Group is participating in the project to conduct research on autonomous navigation, although the company has no intention to abruptly switch to unmanned operations by applying AI. First, we want to use ICT, which, in a broad sense, includes AI, as a tool for helping crews operate ships safely.

Finally, we would like Professor Kitsuregawa to offer his concluding remarks.

Kitsuregawa

I have come to understand how the Group is making full-fledged efforts to apply ICT centered on big data, while recognizing changes in the social climate and trends related to technological innovations. Even beyond the shipping industry, the Group's promotion of innovation in the industry and society at large, especially through proactive efforts to establish an open platform, is an extremely relevant approach.

(Interviewed in March, 2017)