The importance of shipping goes generally unnoticed outside the maritime profession and those companies closely linked to the import/export business. There is little reason to think, with the exception of the news of oil spills, collisions and acts of piracy, that the rest of the world will ever take interest in the vital labours engaged in on the seas and in the great ports, but the means by which the rest of the world shares information should be of great interest to the maritime profession.
The transport of knowledge at practically the speed of light and the open channels providing so many means of navigation through oceans of data offer rewarding possibilities to an enterprise with the know-how to use them. Ours is an ancient industry, but one unfamiliar in these new waters. Knowledge stays locked up in paper files, or where the new technologies are used, it is merely the continuance of the paper paradigm in electronic format. Each company or association with its own trade publication on the web, each department of the various governments the same, and everyone shipping data to the venerable middlemen in the maritime publishing industry, who reformat and sell it back as searchable data for considerable sums.
At the World Maritime University Library, we hope to join other like-minded institutions in breaking down these inane barriers to knowledge sharing in the industry. At least for the maritime industry, we believe it is our duty to make information as open as the sea.