Scoutbase – prevent human error with real-time data

Feb 27 2020

Danish start-up Scoutbase is developing better ways for shipping companies to find out where their seafarers experience challenges in everyday work - before they turn into accidents.

Scoutbase of Svendborg, Denmark, is developing better ways for shipowners to continuously get anonymous feedback from their crew - thanks to their proprietary feedback tool which allows them to send questions directly to the mobile phones of seafarers.


Seafarers don’t need to install any app, the system comes up automatically when they connect to a shipboard crew wi-fi. So, for example, before they can get to Facebook, they are asked a question, they answer and then go on to Facebook.


One example question on the company website is, “What makes you rush at work” with options “unplanned extra work, interruptions, change in plans, something else”. Another example is “are you sleeping well onboard”.


The system is designed to make it as easy as possible for seafarers to anonymously inform their employer if they are stressed or fatigued, or what they find difficult.


This gives shipping companies an entirely new data set on what they need to target in their next budgets, priorities safety intervention and campaigns.


The response rate so far has been 85 per cent, providing around 400 data points per vessel per month. This is much more data than a safety manager would get from waiting for near miss reports.


A pilot project was running with shipping operator DFDS from January to December 2019, which will now be scaled up to their whole fleet.


The same software can also be used for communications to crew, including to share announcements or ask them to watch a safety video.


It only requires a very small amount of data bandwidth to send the actual response data – the software works offline and can send the seafarers’ responses whenever there is a faster data connection.


Better situation awareness

The purpose of the tool could be described as making it easier for safety managers to maintain situation awareness of what is happening on ships, so they can make better decisions.


Safety managers often have useful and actionable little data to try and prevent human error at sea. Near miss reporting for example typically gives around 4 data points per vessel per month, often with questionable quality and usefulness.  Scoutbase on the other hand provides vastly more and highly actionable data – in real time.


An analogous situation could be trying to drive a car without a speedometer, says Sebastian Nause-Blüml, Co-Founder, Scoutbase. “That’s how a lot of companies that we have spoken to describe the situation that they are in with the crew – they don’t have the data to know what’s really going on”


And it is common for seafarers to encounter problems in work or have ideas about how it could be done better, but not tell anyone.  “All of this precious insight on what could and should be better stays in their heads,” he said.


With Scoutbase in use, the company safety department and other staff can see data coming in and use that to make decisions – including on priorities, campaigns and training.  


The most useful information for managers is what is difficult in people’s everyday work.


Maintaining anonymity

The responses are anonymized, so shipping company staff cannot link any response to any individual crew member.


Since the responses are taken through an app rather than by e-mail, it is easier for seafarers to trust that the data is kept anonymous.


Some shipowners have asked Scoutbase which individuals onboard made a certain response. But Scoutbase needs to decline these requests, because it is quite important for the system functioning that crew can trust that their data will be treated anonymously. “If we lose the trust of seafarers then we’ve lost,” he said.


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