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Startup Profile: Scoutbase

Scoutbase has devised an innovative safety platform that helps to head off human error before it can cause a serious incident at sea.

While exact figures are hard to pin down, there is strong evidence that human error plays a major role in the bulk of maritime accidents. To help counter this, Denmark-based Scoutbase has thus developed an eponymous platform that collects data from crew and personnel about everyday challenges they face at work.

Based on around 30 key questions, these leading safety indicators can then be analysed by safety managers via a graphical dashboard in real time. In so doing, says co-founder and human factors and systems safety specialist Mads Ragnvald Nielsen, the platform can enable companies to create better, more predictive and reliable risk assessments and therefore take more effective safety actions.

“We collect data by asking seafarers a quick question once every other day when they connect to onboard crew Wi-Fi,” he says. Importantly, the questions have all been designed to be quick to answer, with all responses remaining fully anonymous.

“We ask questions continuously, at scale, across the fleet, generating Big Data where patterns are automatically derived in real-time to support decision making. Therefore, people working to promote safety and prevent accidents will be substantially better informed in making decisions and prioritising resources,” Nielsen states.

This proactive approach differs greatly from the typical situation at play within the industry whereby health and safety professionals are reliant on collecting and studying small sets of reactive data from accidents and near-misses that have already happened. “Quite often, [these] near-miss reports are of low quality and therefore not valuable nor actionable,” he says, adding that such a method also “only captures a small fraction of the data available from a safety learning perspective”.

Scoutbase, however, “recognises seafarers as experts when it comes to the issues that must be resolved in the front-line daily operations onboard ships”. Consequently, the data it gathers provides insights into “the local rationality” of the seafarers themselves, flagging up issues before they escalate into workplace safety issues.

Indeed, a key benefit of the Scoutbase platform is the significant amount of data that is generated, which Nielsen calculates as coming in at “around 100 times higher” than is the case with most near-miss reporting schemes. “This means that shipping organisations will be substantially better informed in their decision making around improving safety, wellbeing and productivity at sea,” he states.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to reduce accidents and incidents at sea, which are costly both from a humanistic and economic point of view,” he says. “This makes sense in an industry that is still a dangerous place to work, even compared to other high-risk industries.”

“In parts of the industry, the focus on the human element in relation to safety risk management is currently increasing. For example, we are now looking towards a new chapter being added to the Tanker Management Self-Assessment Scheme, which addresses this specifically,” Nielsen states, noting that in turn the Scoutbase platform can thus “help tanker operators comply with the new requirements being introduced”.

From its beginning, the platform has been co-designed and tested with Danish shipping line DFDS. Furthermore, this past autumn, Scoutbase was selected to participate in the Rainmaking Trade With Impact programme, resulting in a new collaboration with Shell. Moreover, with initial results proving positive, Nielsen reports that the company is currently in the process of expanding its pilot scheme with DFDS to cover its entire fleet of more than 60 ships, with that for Shell now broadening to six vessels for a three-month period.

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia

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