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How technology is transforming shipping

Shipping executives stress the importance of technology and innovation to drive greater sustainability in the maritime industry.

Despite the tough economic climate, top tier companies are not cutting back on investments in technology and innovation which they see as the foundation of their future. 

Speaking at the recent Fleet Transformation Event in London, DNV GL – Maritime CEO and newly appointed IACS Chairman Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen , said the drive for sustainability is rewriting the rules for all industries – and shipping is no exception.

“Leading companies are exploring ways to leverage new technologies to improve the safety and productivity of their assets. To ensure a quick take-up of new technologies and a smooth implementation of existing technologies, the integration of new technologies in the regulatory framework and regulatory effectiveness will be key,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen.

The IACS chief believes digitalisation, and the use of advanced digital solutions, will play a big role in shipping in the years to come. “Using big data effectively can transform the way the industry works, helping ship owners and operators significantly improve the performance of their fleet, increase the safety of their vessels, reduce operational costs and become more efficient.”

Erik Lewenhaupt , Head of Sustainability at Stena Line, echoed Ørbeck-Nilssen’s thoughts, saying technology is part of the solution, but it only works when combined with effective regulations. “Globally agreed rules that apply to all players in the industry are crucial when it comes to making shipping more sustainable. We need regulations that encourage take-up of new technologies if we are to maintain shipping as the ‘greenest’ mode of transport.

He added, “There’s also a need to combine soft-sounding solutions, such as collaboration and partnerships, with the best technology. Shipowners cannot act alone to make shipping more sustainable. Stakeholders need to engage. Collaboration is key.”

Behavioural change
With new technology and ways of doing business, many experts recognise there is a need for behavioural change in the maritime industry. This naturally has its challenges but is needed if the digital, technical and autonomous elements of the industry are to be integrated successfully argued Inge Sandvik , Chief Digital Officer at Wilhelmsen.

"New regulations, technology and ways of doing business will, for sure, bring challenges but they are needed if the shipping industry is to transform successfully,” said Sandvik, and added, “To this end, there is a need for a behavioural change in shipping and that’s why companies, including Wilhelmsen, are making greater use of digitalisation, to create new efficient ways of working and improve customer interfaces.”

Lars Erik Luthman , Vice President Information Technologies and Development at Klaveness thinks disruption is necessary and offers opportunities, “New technologies enable models to emerge, and companies like Uber and Airbnb have given a face to the sharing economy. At Klaveness we believe this will also apply to shipping. With better digital connections between ship and shore, the industry has new opportunities to bring down costs and facilitate collaboration.”

The number of companies that are embracing digitalisation is growing. In addition to Wilhelmsen and Klaveness here in Norway, the Kongsberg Group has established Kongsberg Digital and the new Kognifai digital platform, while DNV GL recently announced that it has established a Digital Solutions organisation, following close on the heels of the launch of its industry wide platform Veracity. For its part, Jotun is working to be at the forefront of using big data efficiently and considers data exchange and digitalization as the foundation for future partnerships and creating value.

“It should be no surprise that the majors are focusing more and more on digitalisation,” commented Stein Kjølberg , Global Concept Director at Jotun Hull Performance Solutions, “The industry is becoming more complex and challenging. If we are to address the challenges, we need to draw on new technologies and innovations. They will help to create new opportunities for those who are prepared and risks for those who are not.

”Indeed, the challenges ahead are by no means insignificant. It is welcome that a growing number of companies are using new technology to drive greater sustainability, but more remains to be done to make international shipping truly sustainable.  

As shipping analyst guru Dr Martin Stopford put it in a recent Splash interview : “There’s every indication that technology is going to get better and better over the next decade or two. The problem is that the business model running through shipping cycles is not a suitable platform for introducing this new technology. Smart ships, smart fleets and smart global logistics are needed to change this business model.”



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