Mankind, machine & maritime
Industry-wide research shows that average retention rates are falling year on year, with working conditions, industry reputation and the arrival of...
Mankind, machine & maritime
The future of technology in the shipping industry
In this insight report you'll find out how to...
- Use technology to improve seafarer happiness
- Improve duty of care for your crew
- Decide which emerging technology you should be paying attention to
- Boost the efficiency of crew rotations
- Deal with the challenges presented by digitalisation
- Create a strategy for digitalisation within your maritime organisation
Can the application of technology improve seafarer happiness?
As the global economy continues to recover, the shipping industry is moving slowly but steadily behind it. However, there is an increasingly significant trend that threatens to make waves for even the largest of maritime organisations.
Industry-wide research shows that average retention rates are falling year on year, with working conditions, industry reputation and the arrival of new technology all being offered as explanations for why an increasing number of seafarers are choosing to jump ship – sometimes leaving the sector entirely.
A recent IMO study revealed that the industry needs to attract 16,500 seafarers over the next year to correct the shortfall, and so it follows that an equal amount of attention needs to be paid to keeping crew, and keeping them happy once they’ve been found.
Seafarer satisfaction is intrinsically linked with almost all of the challenges that those in the shipping sector are currently facing; challenges such as creating cost savings, improving efficiency and securing the safety of crew. Retaining staff is a key part of tackling these but also presents challenges in itself.
In the WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs, Fei et al (2015) concludes that “prolonging the number of years that seafarers spend at sea and their subsequent retention is therefore an important issue that requires further attention.”
With much attention being paid to the future of the shipping industry in regards to its technology, it’s important to remember that much of the sector’s future lies in the hands of seafarers, officers and captains and so it’s vital to keep them. Combining the two and empowering crew by providing enhanced technology, could provide the answer.
When a ship starts leaking crew…
The task of attracting new generations to a career at sea is nothing new to the shipping sector, as argued by Lewarn, 2009; “The shipping industry has been suffering from a shortage of qualified and experienced officers for the last two decades”.
Now, almost a decade on and the situation remains relatively unchanged.
However, the battle isn’t won purely by the hiring of new talent – it’s won in keeping hold of existing talent too.
Globalised markets and improved communication in all areas of life makes the successes and circumstances of competitors more visible than ever before, meaning that employees are often aware of better opportunities and have the tools to explore them. This is particularly relevant after a downturn, during which crew are more likely to cling to their current roles, but start looking for ways to explore their future when things are on the up.
“People may be the only remaining source of competitive advantage,” explains Bernthal and Wellins et al, in their essay ‘Employee engagement as a predictor of retention’. “The only thing nearly impossible to replicate is the quality of an organisation’s talent – its passion and its commitment.”
A study for the Asian Journal of Shipping and Logistics concluded that employee engagement was significantly and positively related to retention levels and that organisations with higher retention levels saw positive differences to revenue, innovation, creativity and organisational effectiveness.
Knowledge and experience can only serve to benefit a maritime organisation, particularly throughout a period of change and turbulence, and crew and officers who can think innovatively in order to find solutions that please clients, win business or save money are an asset.
As well as compromising the knowledge, experience and expertise of a crew, decreased employee retention can have dramatic effects on an organisation’s bottom line. When one employee leaves, there are obvious costs involved with hiring and training a replacement, as well as efficiency costs while searching for their replacement and working with a newer, perhaps less experienced, hire.
With every employee who leaves a ship or seafaring organisation, there is also a knock on effect on the safety and security of the remaining crew according to Bhattacharya (2016); “There are often lapses in communication with new workers, which then creates increased opportunities for error. This makes it more difficult to build and communicate a positive safety culture if the composition of the workforce is constantly changing.”
Why are seafarers jumping ship?
Like most industries, the shipping sector is contending with the challenges presented by the millennial workforce, whose expectations regarding workplace culture differ greatly from their predecessors. For example, younger generations expect greater connectivity and increased focus on employee safety and welfare, as well as clear evidence of career progression and opportunities.
Multiple sector studies have all found compelling relationships between decreased employee retention and factors such as poor HR practices, work-life balance, poor shipboard working conditions, high workload, lack of shore support, career progression and isolation from family and friends.
In a study of Danish seafarers, Haka et al. (2011) found that the major reasons for leaving seafaring to be the following: spending a long time away from home and family, problems posed by cultural differences, isolation or loneliness among officers.
There have also been more direct links drawn between the quick adoption of automation technology into the shipping industry and employee retention, with research concluding that the seeming threat of technology to seafarer’s jobs can in itself contribute to decreased retention, as morale drops in response to imagined job losses in the future.
Delving further into the impact of automation are Cahon and Haugsetter, 2008, who concluded that increased shipboard automation has led to a more monotonous work schedule for seafarers; “such a working routine breeds boredom which leads to a loss of job satisfaction for seafarers. This then undermines efforts aimed at improving their retention and may translate into a decision to quit working on board to pursue landslide opportunities.”
Technology – friend or foe of crew happiness?
The rapid pace of technological evolution taking pace within the maritime sector might have been viewed with scepticism or nervousness by some, but technology holds a vast amount of possibilities regarding the improvement of seafarer retention.
A ‘quick win’
In its latest Seafarer Happiness Index survey, Mission to Seafarers found that internet connectivity is the single most important reported factor in satisfaction with life on board, providing a fairly straight-forward solution for organisations looking to improve engagement and seafarer welfare. According to Mission to Seafarers, convenient connections and communications with the offshore world are ‘more vital than ever to mariner happiness’, with the survey finding a "stark divide between seafarers working on ships where internet access was available and those working on ships with little or no access.”
“Although overall we still see that the industry is still struggling with seafarer happiness, these findings represent a very real opportunity for shipping companies to achieve a ‘quick win’ for welfare," said Steven Jones, the founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index. "Increased access to Wi-Fi on board can make an instant and measurable difference to seafarer happiness, and happier employees means fewer sick-days, fewer accidents, better employee retention and a positive reputation for the employer."
A new generation
Each generation that joins the workforce brings with them their own expectations of the work place and it’s up to their new employers to manage these, adapting where necessary. As well as providing improved mood and morale on-board, reliable and easy accessible internet connectivity is especially important to millennials beginning their career at sea; according to the IMO, “poor internet access on board ships was the largest disincentive to young people taking up seagoing roles.”
Not only does connectivity fulfill what younger generations sees as a basic requirement, it also hints at further opportunities within the sector and the technology within it, acting as a demonstration of the forward-thinking direction that shipping is moving towards.
A complete process
A stop-start, fragmented travel experience isn’t appreciated by anyone – least of all crew who have spent their shift working hard and are eager to get home and the crew managers who have to mitigate the effects of delayed travel.
Implementing analytics and reporting technology that can aid maritime organisations in predicting where delays are most likely to occur, based on what has happened in the past. It will also help to identify which parts of the travel process are the least efficient and is a practical way of working towards a better experience for all travelling personnel.
Although there has been significant discussion around how technology will threaten the jobs of seafarers, it’s important to acknowledge how new technologies can improve the lives of those at sea and provide career opportunities, ultimately motivating them to stay with their employer and within the shipping industry.
However, it’s up to maritime organisations to position this correctly and communicate it to seafarers in a way that is relevant for them – only then will organisations begin the emerge as victorious in the battle for increased seafarer satisfaction.
Digitalisation & duty of care : What’s in it for the crew?
Travel is mission critical within the maritime sector, meaning that in a Venn diagram with subjects that are emotive for crew on one side and operations that are essential to the workings of an organisation on the other, travel sits firmly in the middle.
On one hand, travel is ‘just part of the job’ and happens every day, whereas on the other the experience of crew when travelling can have a significant impact on employee morale.
This is where a considered, well-executed approach to duty of care is essential.
Why duty of care matters
The good news is that due to changing attitudes within the maritime industry, whether enforced or organic, duty of care now has a place on most organisations’ priority list. The Sailors' Society CEO, Stuart Rivers, recently reaffirmed why duty of care is so important; "The result of not looking after crew is costly and will hit your bottom line at some point. You have a duty of care to the seafarers you employ."
In fact, IMO rules dictate that from 2019 ship owners are responsible for crew from the moment they start their contract to the moment they arrive home.
Although there are inherent risks and compromises made in choosing a career at sea, it only stands to reason that crew who feel unsafe, overworked, undervalued and as if they are routinely put at unnecessary risk will eventually leave an organisation. There are two common scenarios in which poor duty of care practices relating to travel can impact on seafarer morale; poorly managed transport and flight delays causing frustration (particularly when crew are returning home) and traveller safety in the event of an emergency, whether natural or man made. All of this can combine to result in decreased retention, increased recruitment cost and strained budgets.
The term ‘duty’ should also be noted, with questions of morality often being raised during conversations around duty of care. Although an organisation’s baseline attitude to duty of care initiatives may differ due to many factors, including the size of the organisation and the core industry that they operate in, it’s generally accepted that providing a safe and secure working environment and travel procedures is now a basic requirement.
Applying technology to the challenge of duty of care
Reviewing and amending your organisation’s approach to duty of care isn’t a task that can be completed in an afternoon and is something that requires planning, communication and monitoring in order to be truly successful. However, applying new and existing technology to the challenge of duty of care can simplify things.
The scope for technology within the arena of duty of care is huge, and can range from traveller location services, automated alerts and safety checks to live heat maps to show high risk areas – it can even extend to automation and maintenance technology in a bid to avoid accidents or trips to remove locations. The possibilities are endless, here are just a few examples:
Travel risk maps
A travel risk map displays each country’s medical risk rating and travel security risk rating. The result is a comprehensive overview of risks by destination. Understanding what the risks are at a destination and then taking appropriate precautions is the best way for an organisation to support their people, enable business growth and deliver on duty of care.
Employee tracking systems can provide clear visibility of where travellers are – this is especially useful for organisations who routinely send crew to high risk destinations, as it enables them to quickly locate their travellers. Decisions can then be made to remove those travellers or to stop others from boarding a plane to that location.
‘Locate me’ functionality
A select number of mobile travel management apps offer instant location sharing functionality to be used in the event of an emergency. This should enable travelling crew to notify their organisations or selected travel management specialist of their whereabouts with the option to ask for assistance if needed.
To allow for a more comprehensive approach to duty of care, some systems can be scheduled to inform the line manager or HR department if a traveller has not read the medical and safety briefing triggered by their planned trip to an ‘at risk’ location. This also serves to highlight to travellers the responsibility that they must take for their own safety and that they must work in unison with their employers.
Technology in action
The important role that technology, combined with the expertise of a specialist TMC, can play in managing emergency situations while following duty of care best practices was demonstrated when an EgyptAir flight en-route from Cairo to London Heathrow was hijacked with a client of ATPI Marine & Energy on board.
As soon as ATPI Marine & Energy was aware of the incident via its alerts system, a report for all travellers was immediately run to establish if any passengers had been affected. This was made possible due to the fact that all bookings made via ATPI Marine & Energy are made through a single global technology platform.
When the client was identified, ATPI Marine & Energy worked quickly to establish the safety of the passenger. Firstly, for his own safety, he was advised to terminate the phone call whilst on board the hijacked aircraft. The dedicated account manager called the client to start the approved internal protocols. The third party security company, based in Cyprus, then contacted the UK Foreign Office to advise that a UK Citizen was on the hijacked aircraft.
As the situation developed, the flight was diverted to Larnaca where the aircraft was met by armed security personnel. The hostage situation was subsequently peacefully resolved with the hijacker surrendering to the authorities.
The incident demonstrated the need for a professional and effective duty of care programme, led by an expert travel provider and supported by technology such as instant alerts and centralised systems, as well as the need to ensure that all travellers are aware of the procedure in a crisis.
Unfortunately, traveller safety can never be guaranteed and disruptions to travel can never be ruled out. However, maritime organisations who have invested time and resource into their duty of care strategy and supporting technology, with guidance from a specialist travel provider, are best placed to respond should unexpected circumstances arise, mitigating risk and ensuring that crew and travellers get to where they need to be as safely and securely as possible.
The emerging technology that maritime organisations should
be paying attention to today
With so much lip service being paid to how technology is creating waves within the shipping sector, it can be challenging to identify the developments that will unlock tangible change for maritime organisations and those that are nothing more than sea air.
Despite being one of the largest and oldest industries in the world, responsible for the carriage of over 90% of the world’s trade, a lot of the operations that keep the shipping industry sailing rely on millions of paper documents and manual processes – any technology that can reduce the time spent on manual or administrative tasks should certainly be prioritised by a sector who’s attention remains firmly on cost and efficiency savings.
Here is our experts’ round up of the technology that maritime organisations should be investing time, money and energy into over the next 12 months:
The buzz surrounding blockchain is comparable to attitudes towards the Internet in the early 90s, and so it’s important to understand the technology's importance and implications before dismissing it as a passing fad.
Blockchain is a decentralised database, or distributed ledger, that stores a continuously growing list of assets and transactions across a peer-to-peer network. It is open source, which means that individuals can access relevant information and update the content, with all changes tracked in a secure record of activities.
Blockchain registers transactions between two parties efficiently, and in a verifiable, permanent way. Exchanges are validated through specialised code and are logged in blocks of data that cannot be forged. This record is replicated on every computer that uses the network.
This would be the biggest innovation in the industry since the containerization. It basically brings more transparency and efficiency. The container shipping lines are coming out of their shells and playing catch-up in technology.
Rahul Kapoor, Bloomberg Intelligence in Singapore. “
What does it mean for shipping?
Very simply, the application of blockchain technology to the shipping sector will result in a general reduction in the amount of paper documents used and also in the time taken to create, inspect and manage them. However, blockchain does hold more promise for maritime organisations;
- Transparency :
Blockchain is built on the foundation of open communications stored in a shared database that allows individuals to freely transact with each other, without the use of an intermediary, by logging into the database with an access key. This limits many of the security risks involved in transactions, as counter-parties can work back along the chain to evaluate information.
- Security :
There is growing recognition that blockchain processes can improve cyber security in maritime transactions, even with future developments in cloud computing and machine learning. Blockchain and digital currencies enable secure computer-to-computer transactions that may minimise the intervention of humans in these processes.
- Accuracy :
As the execution of contracts and other tasks are automated, there is less risk of human error – the correction of which can be costly both in time and finance.
- Efficiency :
As predefined specifications are met by relevant parties, the contract will then self-execute, increasing the efficiency of shipping escrow by limiting the intermediaries involved.
Although it can sound highly technical, most of us are already familiar with forms of machine learning, whether it’s through online recommendation offers on Amazon or Netflix, fraud detection alerts from our bank or the heavily publicised self-driving car.
A branch of artificial intelligence, machine learning is the theory and application of systems that can automatically learn, and improve, without the need for excess external programming. It recognises patterns, and learns from previous computations to produce reliable results.
What does it mean for shipping?
- Cost and time savings :
The failure of mechanics and technology are some of the most common causes for delayed shipments, and is one of the biggest and most expensive issues that shipping companies can face. Artificial Intelligence could provide a much needed solution that will not only save companies and clients’ money, but valuable time too.
With advanced machine learning algorithms, they could find out that a vessel is in need of repair long before the issue begins to show itself. This technology will prevent breakdowns, increase safety and allow proactive as opposed to reactive repairs and improvements.
- Enhanced service :
Machine learning can be used to forecast ETA, even if there is congestion at transhipments points, weather-related difficulties, overbooking issues, and equipment paucity. The computation learns from the past data, thus providing a much more definite forecast.
Relevant data is collected through Automated Identification System, and GPS signals are collected to calculate signals of the ships, latitude and longitude, and speed, draught and the direction vessels sail. By combining this vast data with related weather forecasts over certain time periods, the data mining process takes place, with data cleansing and pre-processing needed to formulate the input.
Predictive analytics is the ability to use historical data and known variable factors (such as economic and operational conditions) to provide insight into the likelihood of future events.
For example, when used in the management of crew travel, the data sources used relate to travel policy, operational efficiency, supplier statistics and traveller behaviour – how often they travel and what and where they are booking. The more data sources and reference points across a business you have, the better and more accurate predictive analysis can be.
“If one can more accurately predict when a ship arrives (or even better, when a specific container gets unloaded from a ship), many of the processes needed to move this container from the port to the final customer can be planned ahead of time”
Dr. ManWo Ng, assistant professor of maritime and supply chain management at Old Dominion University in Virginia, US.
What does it mean for shipping?
- Fulfilled duty of care obligations:
HR will be able to track traveller behaviour against staff retention rates to identify if the traveller experience and employee satisfaction correlate. This in turn can be used to monitor traveller happiness for future trips. Traveller data can also be used to review the effectiveness of travel policies and inform any future changes if required.
- At a broader level it can be used to support operational efficiency by predicting how travel disruption can impact on operations.
- More robust planning for travel disruptions:
Predictive analytics enables a TMC and client to build the probability of an event (for example, a storm) and the impact this may have on budgets and duty of care within a travel programme.
The TMC is therefore able to make a recommendation to book more hotel rooms in the likely event that a crew member will need extra days on land before travelling to the oil rig.
In this way it is possible to make the travel policy more flexible based on the increased probability of events taking place.
- Tailored travel schedules:
More advanced elements or predictive analytics are used specifically in ATPIs Door to Deck offering in ports where traditionally a turnaround is longer. If ship captains are undertaking a handover for example they may need more time if they have not worked together previously – this can take up to two days, compared to just a day for those who have worked together before. This insight can inform travel schedules and programmes to ensure they meet the brief required while enabling procurement to control and plan for budget flexibility.
How digitalisation can improve the management of crew travel
Second only to salary, crew travel is the largest expense of any vessel – so it’s no surprise that shipping organisations are constantly searching for new ways to drive cost savings in this area. Alongside this run the dual challenges of managing regular crew changes in the most efficient way, whilst also ensuring the safety and security of travellers.
The good news is that all of these travel management challenges can be met, and won, with the implementation of technology that already exists – and will only improve as time goes on.
Here’s how technology can be used to improve the management of crew travel at each stage of the process:
Booking and management
As routine as the process of arranging crew changes, and the travel that accompanies them, is in the maritime sector, executing them successfully can be anything but straightforward. Strict travel policies, visa requirements, extreme weather and volatile political climates can all combine to take up an immense amount of time and resource, so it’s imperative to improve efficiency at this stage of the process.
The unpredictable nature of crew rotations rarely allows for the use of traditional travel booking tools and so it’s worthwhile talking to your TMC about whether they can offer workflow management systems that have been specifically designed for international shipping companies to manage travel for ship crew rotations, onshore workers and management. It’s particularly important that systems can integrate with your existing finance, HR and management tools so that you can manage the entire travel life cycle from scheduling to travel management to reporting, and all information can be found in one place rather than by logging in and out of various systems.
Once you have secured a system like this, your organisation will then be able to look to implement automated processes, such as sourcing of the lowest fare available in the market in accordance with travel policy or searches for the highest possible airline seat availability, in order to achieve even more cost and process efficiencies.
Duty of care
Travel has become more dangerous – at least that’s what travellers believe.
A study carried out by Ipsos Mori at the start of the year found that 42% of organisations believe that risk to travellers have increased over the last few years and have tried to change their itineraries accordingly.
Although factual events dictate that travel is no more dangerous now than it was 5 years ago, it’s understandable that crew feel as if it is and so the onus is on employers to provide reassurance and demonstrate that they have access to tools and information that can offer support during an emergency.
Of course, when dealing with crew rotations it’s not always a political emergency or extreme weather that can throw an itinerary off course. Plans are more often thrown into disarray by delays and cancellations, which take time, resource and money to correct – not to mention the effect on crew morale when preventing them from getting home.
The first step towards meeting this challenge is to source an automated alert system that delivers up to the minute breaking news alerts directly to crew managers, key stakeholders and even crew themselves. This system should be customisable depending on role or location, as well as offering the option to filter alters according to urgency levels to ensure that your organisation only receives the most relevant information.
Once an effective alert system is in place, the next step is to find technology that will enable you to locate travelling crew should your organisation receive news of a delay or emergency and then communicate easily – from a simple follow up message to ensure they have arrived at their destination safely, to critical communication in a time of crisis.
There are various tracking systems available, but in an ideal world all maritime organisations should have access to an intuitive, graphical map shows the location of crew or personnel in conjunction with the various risk levels associated with their destinations. Again, this should be customisable, with filters allowing for a bespoke overview of the travel data you require, whether that is by city, airport, risk level, traveller, flight, hotel or date range.
Monitoring and reporting
There has been a noticeable shift in the shipping sector’s approach to analytics and management information in recent times, with Head of Global Account Management for Shipping at ATPI Marine & Energy, Eleftheria Letsiou, hailing this period as “a new era of data analysis.”
Forward-thinking maritime organisations, who are looking to take greater control of their travel programme, are implementing a more holistic and comprehensive approach to create consistent, long-term savings, with key stakeholders now realising that improved quality of data and management information can contribute greatly to a spend saving strategy.
Before working with any TMC, it’s best for shipping organisations to explore what can be offered in terms of analytics capabilities to avoid being left with only a vague overview of travel spend. Look for:
- Pre-trip information to get full transparency and control before travel is undertaken
- Post-trip information, providing you with the invoiced data you need to analyse your spend
- Dynamic, automated reports that can be customised and downloaded in real time
- Enhanced visual displays of data
- Benchmarking features to help you better measure your travel performance against industry peers
- Personalised bookmarks and dashboards to ensure quick and easy reporting on your key metrics
What challenges could maritime organisations face when dealing with digitalisation?
The digitalisation of the maritime industry won’t be smooth sailing.
Although the increased use of technology and digital solutions holds immense potential for success, there’s no denying that it comes accompanied by a range of challenges. It’s only by sharing experiences, knowledge and insight that the industry will be able to tackle these challenges head on and secure the future that digitalisation promises.
After consulting the experts at ATPI Griffinstone, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest tests facing the shipping sector throughout the process of digitalisation:
1. Cultural transformation:
“Technology change is already happening so you need to be ready,” encouraged Carl Henrickson, Shell’s general manager for shipping and maritime, at London International Shipping Week 2017. “You have to have different mindsets and change company culture.”
Many shipping sector insiders have identified ‘mindset’ as the biggest barrier to the success of digitalisation within the industry, with scepticism, tradition and crossed communication all being cited as being at fault.
“Without a cultural shift towards technology, promoting the value and use of new digital tools to employees will likely create conflict rather than innovation,” argues business writer Valerie Bolden-Barrett in HR Drive, via knect365.
As there are few areas of the sector that will remain unaffected by digitalisation, it’s absolutely essential for all on and off shore personnel to be on board with the initiative. Whether it’s relaying improved safety measures to travelling crew, boosted efficiency to managers or cost savings to finance, it’s the responsibility of senior members of an organisation to communicate the benefits of digitalisation to all personnel in a way that’s relevant to their day-to-day lives. New practices might require a different mindset and skills and so employees will need to be thoroughly prepared and trained on how their roles and responsibilities will change.
2. Educating an industry
It only stands to reason that new technology will require a new set of skills in order to be implemented, maintained and utilised properly – skills that may not be present within many vessels’ workforce currently.
It’s important to communicate digitalisation as an opportunity for seafarers, rather than a threat. The sector continues to battle with decreasing employee retention and so encouraging crew to see the adoption of new technology as a chance to explore their future within maritime could be an effective way to combat this. However, it’s important not to focus all attention on crew – the need to gain a true understanding of digitalisation and its effects, as well as its potential, goes right to the top of every maritime organisation.
In an interview with knect365, Camille Egloff, a Senior Partner & Managing Director at The Boston Consulting Group and the Global Leader of their Transportation and Logistics Sector, advised; “It’s a process that needs to start with some lighthouse projects or successes. In the beginning, you can leverage external help but soon enough and very fast you absolutely need to invest boldly in building your internal capabilities. You can develop SWAT teams that bring the right set of capabilities in Advanced Analytics, in Machine Learning, and work in an agile fashion.”
3. Preparing for data
There’s no doubt that improved technology will increase the visibility that vessels have over all operations and processes – but how will maritime organisations know what to focus on?
It’s important for the sector to recognise the difference between 'lots of data' and 'big data.' Traditional technology has been serving organisations’ analytics needs for decades, allowing them to analyse large data sets from traditional sources such as warehousing and distribution systems. ‘Big data’ takes it to the next level, allowing companies to harness extremely large data volumes including non-traditional data types such as text, audio and video in conjunction with information from business systems in a much more economical fashion, in both batch and in real time modes.
Digitalisation will increase the amount of data available to organisations tenfold and so it’s worthwhile for managers and key stakeholders to begin preparations for this by deciding what data is relevant to their strategy and examining how this is collected in order to ensure that it remains valuable.
4. Understanding the problems before finding a solution
It seems like digitalisation offers a solution to every problem that a shipping organisation could possibly face and so the temptation to implement every type of new technology available is rife. However, it’s only by understanding why those problems are occurring in the first place that a best-fitting solution can be secured.
Let’s take the example of automation as the solution to reducing the risk of error and incident. The causes of error in a ship’s operation are numerous; fatigue, stress, poor qualifications, negligence, language and cultural differences on board ships etc. Understanding human factors therefore requires a study and analysis of the equipment design, the interaction of the human operator with the equipment and the procedures followed by crew and management. The changes in human behaviour needed to interact with autonomous ships and the associated support systems will be significant. The maritime human-machine interface and the associated human factors will therefore be critical, particularly in high-risk and complicated operations.
Creating a strategy for digitalisation within your maritime organisation
With the rising wave of digitalisation showing no signs of slowing down, the earlier maritime organisations can plan for how to effectively implement new technology, the more successful they will be.
Managing the headwinds related to the digital economy is crucial for those in shipping to continue staying competitive, especially as the global shipping environment becoming increasingly unpredictable, with rising competition, declining profit margins and exponentially growing demands for expected service levels.
Here is our experts’ guide to creating a strategy for digitalisation within your organisation:
Step 1: Assess where you are
Before moving forward into the unknown, it’s best to gain a true understanding of where you stand, or sail, currently.
An overview of your organisation’s readiness for digitalisation can be gathered using a maturity framework that grades key departments as being at one of the following stages;
- Defined – basic stage that mainly relies on manual processes
- Managed – rudimentary digitalisation that uses standalone software or templates, with no integration across functions
- Optimised – digitalised system that allows for forecasting and planning, as well as interactivity with data
- Transformed – fully mature system that can run automatically with minimal human intervention
After this, you can delve deeper into how your organisation currently works by examining data and key management information.
Using the example of travel, organisations should spend time analysing how managing crew travel is effecting efficiency; how long does the average crew rotation take? Has the increased or decreased over time? How is this number effected by external factors such as human error, extreme weather or delays and cancellations? If data on this can’t be obtained, then this provides guidance in itself, suggesting that data collection and reporting could be the first department to be digitalised.
Step 2: Defining your destination
Once you’ve got a clear insight in to how prepared your organisation is for digitalisation, you can then decide where you’d like digitalisation to take you.
Speaking to The Business Times, Mohit Batra, Regional Director for Commercial Shipping at Eniram Singapore, argued, “Technology has to be adopted with a clear vision of the end objective and it fails when there is a lack of belief from the top management. Issues such as cyber security and data leaks also need to be considered and addressed before the implementation project commences.”
With the flood of new technology now available to shipping organisations, the temptation to try and implement everything in an effort to overcome all challenges as quickly as possible is great, however it is much more effective to plan and roll out new systems in stages.
Meeting with key stakeholders to decide on what you’d like to achieve by implementing digital solutions will form the basis of a strategy. Would you like to improve efficiency? Reduce risk of human error? Improve the safety and security of crew? Once you have a list of priority areas, you’ll then be able to match technology to each goal.
Step 3: Consultancy from suppliers
Talking to suppliers early in the process of digitalisation is beneficial in two ways; firstly, it will give them insight into the plans that you have for the future of your organisation and should enhance the service that you receive and secondly, it will allow you to take your current suppliers technological capabilities into account when drawing your own implementation plans.
Your suppliers should be experts in their field and therefore able to provide you with guidance around how best to bring new technology and processes into your organisation based on their experiences with others in the maritime sector. Plan time with your account managers and use them as a consultancy service in order to move forward in the most informed way.