Published on 28 Jan 2022

Leveraging big data for greener shipping: BSM, together with London-based start-up Signol, is researching how individual behavioural change can lead to reduced fuel consumption across fleet.

The climate-friendly development of our society is a huge joint task that cannot be mastered by individual industries, single measures or local regulations. It is the multitude of initiatives and the willingness to change combined that will lead to success. The global shipping industry is working hard on major technical innovations, such as the use of alternative energy sources to reduce its carbon footprint and achieve the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. But even small changes in behaviour by an individual can make a difference. The keyword phrase is ‘behavioural science’. Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) has joined forces with London-based start-up Signol to apply behavioural science methodology to explore how individual behavioural change can reduce the energy demand of the managed fleet. It is the first time that a shipping company uses behavioural science to improve crew behaviour.

What is Behavioural Science?

Behavioural science is the systematic study of human behaviour and strategies to change our approach in a target-oriented and verifiable way. In short, it is the study of what we do, why we do it, and how we can change it in a targeted way. Behavioural science combines knowledge and methods from a variety of disciplines, including behavioural economics, psychology, sociology and neuroscience.

Global players such as Google or Uber have been working for some time with their own Applied Behavioural Science research teams in order to better understand their customers and influence their behaviour. It is also being applied in the automotive industry. For example, even the smallest changes in an individual’s car-driving behaviour can have a significant impact on fuel consumption.

BSM aims to harness this knowledge and has entered a strategic pilot partnership with technology start-up Signol to apply behaviour-based data science to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions of the vessels under BSM management.

Success with Positive Feedback Communication

2. How individual crew bahaviour can positively influence our carbon6b.jpg

Operational data analytics from BSM vessels are combined with behavioural science in a dedicated app built by Signol.

Together with Signol, BSM is exploring how providing personalised performance feedback to its Masters and Chief Engineers can positively impact their behaviour in selecting the optimum speed for the vessel. This in turn would ultimately lead to more fuel-efficient voyages. Operational data analytics from BSM vessels are combined with cutting-edge behavioural science in a dedicated app built by Signol, creating personalised targets and feedback for each crew member.

More than 60 Masters and Chief Engineers on 28 vessels are taking part in a four-month pilot project that began at the end of August 2021. During this time, each participating crew member receives individualised targets via the Signol app which are calculated based on the crew’s recent performance. Every week, the participating seafarers obtain updates on personal milestones and achievements via the app and email. They can digitally review their voyages and the progress they have made on fuel efficiency and submit their personal feedback via the app, which contributes towards further improving the software.

A positive feedback culture is crucial. A sustainable change in behaviour is not achieved through pressure, but much more subtly through so-called ‘nudging’: This involves appealing to the subconscious and persuading someone to do, or refrain from doing something, in a more or less subliminal way. Motivation is known to be the best fuel for success.

“Currently, the tests are still running. So, we don’t have the final evaluation of the results yet. But this much can already be revealed. The app is well received by the participants and changes in behaviour are already noticeable,” says Nick Topham, Managing Director at BSM Germany. “We can’t and don’t want to say more yet, because the data is still being collected, analysed and evaluated. We are very excited.”

The use of the Signol app onboard BSM-managed vessels intends to not only improve crew decisions with regards to fuel consumption, but also aims to boost seafarer morale and wellbeing onboard due to ongoing communication and personal interaction. “Our studies have shown that changing the Master’s behaviour alone could result in over five per cent lower fuel usage as well as in much higher job satisfaction by giving employees a sense of empowerment,” says Dan White, CEO and Co-Founder at Signol. His team consists of behavioural scientists, psychologists, software developers and data scientists who pursue a clear mission: the reduction of climate-damaging emissions.

Reduce CO2, Save Costs, Protect the Environment

The pilot scheme is attracting a lot of interest. The idea that fuel consumption can be reduced through behavioural change alone, and without the need to spend millions of dollars in development costs, is very appealing. It not only reduces CO2 emissions, but also costs. And it’s not just a question of operating costs. CO2 emissions are rapidly becoming a cost factor that should not be underestimated. For example, the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), as part of the ‘Fit for 55’ climate package, has included maritime emissions reduction in its measures to be a climate-neutral continent by 2050.

The BSM pilot project with Signol will demonstrate that small actions can significantly contribute to emissions reduction. Ultimately, it is the sum of all measures, from technical development to digitalisation to our simple will to change, that will make the difference.