NLA-led consortium to tackle vulnerabilities in maritime position, navigation and timing

The Blackett Report from the Government Office for Science.

The Blackett Report from the Government Office for Science.

NLA International Ltd is proud to announce the start of a new project funded by the European Space Agency’s ’s NAVISP programme. 

MarRINav (Maritime Resilience and Integrity of Navigation) will explore vulnerabilities in position, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions.  Both the 2017 Blackett report and 2018 London Economics report highlighted the risks associated with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), and the operations that depend on it.  In the marine space these vulnerabilities are significant.  Factors such as space weather, jamming and ‘spoofing’ – being misled by false signals – can cause ships to appear on charts at inaccurate locations.  MarRINav will consider these risks and explore how other PNT solutions can complement GNSS to provide the mariner with greater resilience and confidence in what is now recognised as a critical national infrastructure.

The NLA-led consortium includes The University of Nottingham, The General Lighthouse Authorities Research and Development team, Terrafix, London Economics, Innovate UK, Taylor Airey and University College London.  Together we will explore a system-of-systems solution primarily for maritime PNT resilience and integrity whilst recognising that findings may be applied to other sectors such as transport and logistics; emergency response; security; financial services; power distribution; and telecommunications. 

Project updates will appear on the NLA website.  For more details please see the ESA official release here.

Safety in the fishing industry - can technology save lives?

Safety in the fishing industry - can technology save lives?

Recent events in India have brought into sharp focus the urgent need for better communication systems between seafarers and land-based services, especially in times of distress. Cyclone Ockhi at the end of 2017 caused havoc in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, taking hundreds of lives. In particular, many fisherfolk were completely cut off from rescue services, rendering assistance nigh-on impossible. Unsurprisingly, the response from the community was impassioned.

Can Conservation Save the Oceans?

 Can Conservation Save the Oceans? - An Economist Film

The Economist screened this film at their World Ocean Summit 2018 in Mexico.  We wanted to share it as it includes some great stories that underline the importance of considered ocean governance based on data and good analytical science  It highlights the relationships between economies, cultures and ecology are intricately linked.

Innovative Technological Solutions for Sea Fisheries Control and Enforcement

DEFRA has long explored and promoted technological solutions to help bring about positive change, and the Marine Management Organisation has also fully embraced this agenda since being created by the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009.

One of the latest examples of such commitment was the launch of Innovative Technological Solutions for Sea Fisheries Control and Enforcement tender, which was formally announced in January of this year. The ITT called for applicants to set out how they would explore technological solutions able to support effective application of and compliance with extant fisheries regulations, activities never more important.

NLA is delighted to announce that we have been award the contract to deliver this important work. We will therefore be energetically pursuing the following objectives in the coming months:

1.     Assessing and prioritising current and future fisheries control and enforcement challenges in the UK EEZ; 

2.     Identifying and appraising innovative solutions for addressing those challenges, building upon current methods and technology developments; and, where appropriate

3.     3. Undertaking proof of concept/trial work. 

The initial evidence base established at the start of the project will scope out what these challenges are. Over the course of the project, the intent is to identify the potential use of new technologies and innovation in providing a solution to the challenges. 

DEFRA is working with several agencies including the MMO, Environment Agency and the IFCAs. Together they want to achieve developments in areas such as satellite technology, robotics, autonomous systems, machine learning, block chain and fish catch monitoring systems which have the potential to complement existing control and enforcement methods over the full range of surveillance methods from detection to deterrence.

NLA has formed an exciting consortium of researchers and experts to undertake this important study.

All of this work will also dovetail with the broader Government agenda of exploring how new technologies and innovative approaches can transform the way industries develop. Much strategic thinking in that area was set out in the Government Office for Science’s excellent Technology and Innovation Futures 2017 report of last year. It is fantastic that the fisheries sector is taking a lead in harnessing tech to enable long-term economic growth and productivity in the UK, and much else.

Taking all this into account, please get in touch with us if:

·       You have any relevant existing research activity you wish to bring to light;

·       You would like to contribute ideas as to the control and enforcement challenges you think need to be recognised, or

·       You know of, utilise, work for or own any technologies that you consider essential to this study.

We are very pleased to be involved in this work and look forward to address the challenges and needs of Defra and its partner agencies in the UK EEZ over the coming months.

Innovative Tech is Musselling in on Aquaculture

Scotland has long been a country in harmony with the seas and oceans.  From oil and gas to fisheries, coastal tourism and more recently managed aquaculture Scotland’s blue economy is entwined with its unique culture, topography and ocean space. 

In 2015, 96% of the UK aquaculture sector and all the UK salmon farming industry were located in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  This industry provides a significant contribution to the economic and social fabric of the region, especially for people who live in very remote communities.  The aquaculture industry contributes over £1.8Bn to the Scottish economy and accounts for a staggering 7% of global production.

This market share has declined from 10% in 2005, whilst global production is increasing such that the Scottish market share is not keeping pace with the rest of the world.  Unless technology and improved processes can be exploited to increase production, Scotland could fall further behind as global production continues to grow at 5% year on year.

Such global value has become more markedly obvious to us as we have recently been undertaking fisheries exploration in the Philippines. Aquaculture accounts for over 50% of Philippine fisheries output, and was the one market sector that allowed the countries’ 2017 fisheries output statistics to retain some buoyancy, as standard commercial and municipal fisheries both declined. Over 50% of the country’s animal protein consumption comes from fish, so aquaculture is hugely important in providing the most basic of nutrition to the citizens of a nation that does still register significant involuntary hunger problems.

Given all this, it will be no surprise to learn that, in line with our emerging work in the Philippines, we have been working with the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA) to explore the needs of aquaculture companies and fish farmers in the Highlands and Islands.

Early next month members of the NLA team along with their SoXSA and HIE partners, will be in Shetland to facilitate a workshop centred on connected aquaculture and the operational and commercial challenges facing mussel farmers as they seek to exploit innovative technologies to fuel the growth of Scotland’s fishing industry around the World.  The workshop will be attended by technologists and aquaculture operators and will seek to describe a formal approach to testing innovations that will lead to a more efficient, effective and ultimately prosperous Scottish aquaculture industry. 

We’ll keep you up to date on progress on this ambitious project via the NLA web site. Do please get in touch with us if you would like to bring to our attention any innovative aquaculture systems or approaches that may be of interest to our partners.

Managing and Monitoring wreck sites - A new approach

NLA were delighted to attend the recent Naval Remains Seminar chaired by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The event, held at Admiralty House, London,  focused on the challenges of monitoring and managing underwater naval remains.  Threats to these sites include criminal activity such as unauthorised salvage but also risks associated with damage to wrecks that in some instances contain unstable explosives and quantities of fuel oil.

NLA provided insights in maritime surveillance applications and satellite enabled technologies that could be transposed from other Blue Economy disciplines to support the monitoring and management of wreck sites.

The official NMRN press release can be found here

Three things shipping can learn about Big Data from other sectors

Digital ship image.jpg

Big Data in action in Washington, DC.

NLA Ltd was delighted to be ask to join a panel on Big Data at the recent Digital Ship CIO conference in Singapore.

This is a hot topic, and will only increase in importance when you consider that the data analysis market as a whole is predicted to grow to $203bn by 2020, up from $130bn in 2016.

While acknowledging that there is great potential for Big Data within shipping, we were keen to point to other sectors for examples of where data had been used successfully. We present below a small selection of the dozen case studies we referenced on the day.

1. Size doesn’t (necessarily) matter

An important starting point is that this debate should not solely concern itself with ‘Big’ Data. Business Intelligence and CIOs have always used data, and while the volume, variety, velocity and veracity of available data has grown exponentially in recent years, that can be as off-putting as empowering. What matters is the insight gained and the potential actions suggested, not the size of the data set.

An example of the power of small data can be found in the education sector. A couple of years ago, a Washington DC elementary school conducted a short study. The school had been using tablets as an aid to teaching and learning, so invited in 24 volunteer data scientists to see if they could find anything interesting in the system’s data.

In just 24 hours, they highlighted which groups of students benefited the most from such programmes. On a reading app, identified patterns showed what type of usage was most likely to lead to increases in literacy scores, differentiated across age groups. On a typing game, they discovered that students either aimed for speed or accuracy, with the latter showing a 36% improvement in typed words per minute, more than double the 17% recorded improvement of the “fly-through” students. These and other insights provided teachers with greater understanding of usage, and suggested actions to improve learning.

Quite rightly, analysts talk about how massive data sets can offer transformative gains for businesses. However, advances in data analysis techniques can also be usefully applied to much smaller issues, with much smaller data and at much less cost.

2. It’s not just numbers

The chair of the session (the excellent Saurish Nandi, Founder and CEO of Proternio Consulting) challenged the panel to suggest why – if so much data is now available – so many collisions still occur at sea?

Two things struck me here. First of all, in conducting my own quick research, most conversations concerning this seem to be happening in academia. Could some of the answers be stuck in a paper somewhere? Piotr Borkowski’s paper might be a good starting point to explore the issue.

More broadly, though (aside from the emerging interest in deploying autonomous systems in this area), case studies in other domains repeatedly highlight that the answers to problems may lie in forgotten or uncorrelated data sets which means that organisations need to understand what data may or may not be useful.

Perhaps the most celebrated case is where New York City authorities used predictive modelling in 2011 to pinpoint buildings with a higher than normal fire risk. Whereas previously they would only have looked at standard data such as building age and historical fire risk, the new model attempted to pull in a much broader wealth of base information. They focused on factors like missed tax or utility payments – which suggests neglect – and nearby crime and accident rates. Then, by visiting only those buildings that the data pointed to, fire inspectors were able to find many more than if they'd simply gone door to door. The model has continued to progress in the subsequent years.

So, when looking to data science to solve long-standing problems in any industry, one of the early questions should also be: what data have you got, even if at first glance it may not seem to be relevant?   

3. Data leadership is essential

Someone has to lead.

Deriving useful insights from data – in any industry – is difficult, will take time, and may provide lots of false promise before delivering value. However, talking the talk without supporting CIOS and other related managers with appropriate resources will only lead to failure. Data leadership – coming from the very top levels of management – will help to provide proper foundations for success.

We can look across to the art world for an example of some head-turning data leadership. In 2014, the Dallas Museum of Modern Art took an unprecedented step. They made admissions and memberships completely free, as long as patrons were willing to share some personal data – even just their name and email address.

This was an initiative with a significant price tag – the museum was immediately wiping out $1m from its bottom line, which equated to 5% of its annual budget. However, when announcing the initiative, Director Maxwell Anderson said, “We’re trying to incentivise people to represent what they’re doing, where they’re going, and how they’re spending their time.” This was, clearly, a fundamental and very public change in approach to the value of data to the organisation.

The result? Membership tripled in a year. Through associated initiatives, museum staff were also able to track which galleries were most popular, which members were repeat visitors, and what low income areas were being served (or not served) by the museum most. It was immediately clear to management that this type of data is absolutely critical for grants and fundraising.

As for the finances, free access to the museum has increased visitors – who spend money in the café, gift shop, and on special paid programmes.  In addition, the museum has been able to use the 2 MILLION data records to raise $5 million to support the museum (which is, not to forget, 5 times what the revenue was for paid admission and memberships).

Not every business will be able to undertake such leaps of data faith, but none will be able to do so without the full support of senior management.

The shipping sector is on its own data journey. With more case studies of the profitable use of Big Data within shipping emerging, leading to greater understanding of future potential, and with more calls for greater data sharing in the supply chain, the next few years will hopefully see great progress.

We thank everyone at Digital Ship for inviting us to participate in the Singapore conference.

Up for the challenge – where next for digitalisation in shipping?

Up for the challenge – where next for digitalisation in shipping?

The autumn, the Digital Ship Rotterdam CIO conference was well attended by around 130 participants for a day’s packed agenda that addressed the pros and cons of digitalisation in shipping, developing themes emerging from previous CIO forums including satcomms and connectivity; the potential of blockchain technology for shipping; exploiting digitalisation; big data and IoT; and cyber security. 

NLA in Malaysia

We are excited to announce the opening of our Malaysia office.  

NLA Co-founder Andy Hamflett has established the office as a new focal point for blue economy consulting in the region. Our research consistently indicates growth in several blue economy and satellite-related markets in ASEAN; couple that with a hunger for innovation and it made perfect sense to locate in South East Asia.  

NLA continues to operate from our original base near Southampton, UK, where we support innovative blue economy organisations and businesses to grow. Our new office in Malaysia allows us to connect even wider networks and open up new market opportunities for new and existing clients.

We look forward to encouraging and supporting greater engagement between SMEs and larger agencies from the UK and South East Asia. 

If you would like any more information about the work we do please get in touch via

Sea Vision

Sea Vision

For most of my naval career, senior colleagues bemoaned the curse of sea blindness, a perception that increased in volume around the time of government reviews of defence and the inevitable scrutiny of naval budgets and resources. We thought ourselves to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’, with few of the general public aware of or caring about the value of our service and our contribution to the national well-being. And, indeed, it was challenging to build a picture of what was happening in our vicinity; using radars, helicopters and good old binoculars we would persistently monitor fishing vessels and merchant ships differentiating between oil rigs, crossing ferries and the ubiquitous yachties, and sharing our picture with other ships in the task group. Building a ‘white picture’ of routine shipping activity required constant, 24/7 dedicated monitoring of a plethora of data sources, bowling out conflicting tracks and resolving identities.

Seeing the Unseen: How new unmanned technologies can power marine conservation

Seeing the Unseen: How new unmanned technologies can power marine conservation

There are currently 13,764 Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) jointly covering over 2% of the oceans. One such MPA is Malaysia’s newly formed Tun Mustapha Park comprising 1 million hectares of marine park and shark sanctuary in northern Borneo. Governance, management, effective real-time situational awareness and enforcement are essential for the preservation of the resources in these water spaces and especially the hundreds of fish species that they support.