To many, the maritime sector has a reputation that it is an industry resistant to change, but increasing investment in technology within the sector is proving that this is not the case and that there is a real appetite for modernisation for those both at sea and on shore.
A survey recently conducted by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network found that 46% of maritime organisations said that they were either investing significantly in new technologies or significantly increasing those investments. Combine this with the fact that last year venture investors backed more than 245 start-ups in shipping and supply-chain management, a record number worth at least $4 billion and it can be concluded that there’s no going back for the maritime sector.
ATPI’s Global Head of Shipping, Nikos Gazelidis, explains the technology-led trends that maritime organisations should look out for over the next 12 months:
In a departure from traditional images of age-old compasses and hand-drawn maps, the maritime sector has developed firm, technical roots in adopting GPS and satellite technology in order to ease navigation over the last few decades and it now seems that autonomous vessels are becoming a more realistic possibility.
Observing the benefits that autonomous vehicles have brought to industries such as air and automotive sectors, the world of shipping is now following suit. In a climate that is dictated by cost and efficiency, the adoption of autonomous vessels will greatly change the way that seafarers explore, monitor and interact with their environment, as well as acting as a more cost-efficient option in deep ocean mining and oil and gas operations.
However, with quite a lot of time to pass before the use of autonomous vessels is widespread, the shipping industry will first employ the use of virtual navigation aids that can be easily installed and have lower maintenance costs than more traditional methods.
Amidst rising environmental concerns worldwide, there has been a tangible shift in the shipping sector’s attitude towards the ‘greening’ of the industry. The International Maritime Organisation has issued new rules with the aim of reducing the allowed sulfur content in marine fuel from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent by January 2020, acting as a real catalyst for change.
The IMO’s new stipulations present what many see as the most significant challenge faced by the global shipping sector in decades, with much discussion about what fuels ships will use and how many vessels will choose to simply break the rules. In an effort to secure a cleaner future, the maritime industry is paying increasing attention to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel for freight and cargo shippers in particular.
Aside from this, shipping organisations are also looking at advanced rudder and propeller systems, sulphur scrubber systems, waste heat recovery and exhaust gas circulation, better pump and water cooling system, and solar fuel propulsion as a way of using alternative technologies in a bid to be more green.
3. Asset management
With 90% of the world’s traded goods being transported by sea, increasing efficiency will always be a priority to those operating in the maritime industry. With this in mind, a significant amount of investment is being put into technology that speeds and fortifies the processes involved in asset management.
As a result, the adoption of remote vessel monitoring is set to become increasingly common in the future, with the deployment of sensor technologies removing the need for personnel to make regular visits to remote locations. Not only does this allow for both cost and time savings, but it also introduces the possibilities afforded by big data, meaning that maintenance and condition monitoring can be guided by intuitive algorithms and predictive analytics.
4. Maintenance and repairs
Earlier this year the Danish Maritime Fund announced that they will be supporting on board printing, by funding the installation and maintenance of 3D printers on vessels and it’s an approach that the rest of the sector seem enthusiastic about.
The goal of on board printing is to decrease the amount of spare parts carried on board, and allow for an as-needed repair and production. It also provides the possibility to make the latest updated version of a spare part instantly as designed by the maker – again improving efficiency and reducing the cost and complexity of maintaining vessels.
5. Crew management
The travel and rotation of crew is the second largest expenditure for most vessels and so streamlining this process in order to make it more time and cost effective is set to be a focus area for those at sea for the foreseeable future.
TMCs operating within the sector should be aligned with these goals and understand why successful crew management matters so greatly to maritime organisations – as a result the industry should expect greater integration and automation when it comes to online workflow management systems. Software that automates the labour-intensive, administrative tasks that come with crew rotations instantly improves efficiency, freeing up your time for the more strategic elements of ship management, whereas enhanced integration between HR, personnel and finance systems is the first step towards reducing the risk of human error and therefore increasing the speed of a crew rotation.
6. Duty of care
Improving duty of care to seafarers has come under significant scrutiny over recent years and for good reason – employee retention is presenting a challenge for even the largest of maritime organisations and making steps forward in fulfilling duty of care obligations is a key way of tackling this.
As of 2019, IMO rules stipulate that ship owners are responsible for crew from the moment they start their contract to the moment they arrive home – this includes ground transport, accommodation, air travel and all things in between.
With this in mind, TMCs should act as an extension of a maritime organisation and offer traveller tracking systems that 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.