The world is continually changing and the shipping industry is no exception. In the past years, there have been many developments in digital disruptions and transformations that are playing key role in modernizing the maritime sector. The huge and complex industry is adapting to meet the needs of commercial marketplace, so that it can become more competitive and cost-effective.
Here we look at the four developments that hold the potential to change the face of the shipping industry as we know it today.
- Autonomous Vessels
‘A vessel which can navigate unmanned using robotic technology across the vast stretches of ocean’ – seems like a sci-fi movie too good to be true? But it’s actually a reality. The world got the first glimpse of a fully autonomous ferry thanks to Rolls-Royce and Finferries on 3rd December 2018. According to a study, between 75% and 96% of maritime accidents are caused by human errors. With reduced reliance on humans that can make mistake due to fatigue and bad judgements, autonomous ships could eventually make our oceans safer. Generally, crew-related expenses account for 30% of the budget which can reduce significantly by reduction or elimination of crews. The advent in autonomous ships can improve safety, increase efficiency, and relieve human from unsafe and repetitive tasks.
Even though we may have seen the first autonomous vessel, we might be years or decades away from majority of vessels becoming autonomous. As with Finnish ferry, the first autonomous ships will be deployed in regions with calm water, simple routes and low traffics. There are significant safety concerns with the enormous size of most ships operating in congested waters. . Existing International Conventions were created under the assumption of a crew on board and there is also a need to have a resolution about the regulations of our shared water.
- Green Ships
But it’s easier said than done. Going Green requires big investments, shipping infrastructure and innovation. Poul Woodall, Director of Environment and Sustainability at DFDS says, “Currently, one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with regulation.” Being mindful of the quality of regulation is also very important. For instance, the regulation controlling the extent of emission of Sulphur from ships may improve the quality of air in coastal region but has a counterproductive effect in the combat against global warming, as Sulphur dioxide has a cooling effect on the climate. This underscore just how difficult it is to regulate an issue with this many moving parts.
It’s all about cleaner practices on emission control, port management and equipment lifecycle, also called circular economy. The International Maritime Organization mandated the reduction of Sulphur content in ship fuels from 3.5% to 0.5% by 1st January 2020 to push for greener shipping. The ever-increasing constant pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s shipping fleets has led to the exploration of whole host of technologies including low carbon fuels, more streamlined hulls and even improved propeller designs. The exploration of renewable energy to power the fleets is also under consideration. A big development in this field was the Turanor PlanetSolar, a catamaran powered by 29,000 solar cells which has successfully circumnavigated the globe.
The technology for monitoring ship operations and performance has been increasing in its sophistication. It uses digital advancements to enhance or transform the way a business operates and the services they provide. The companies are now increasingly looking at efficiencies. The ships of the future will have a complete network of sensors to measure all aspects of operations, including detecting faults and identifying areas needing maintenance. The concept of Digital Twinning to simulate and gather insight and identify issues or non-optimal performance before implementation by using the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and Big Data is also a big development. The use of Cloud Computing can lead to cost savings, increased speed, performance or security.
Along with all the advantages, the Digitalization has some disadvantages too. Adapting innovative and disruptive technology brings the so-called fear of the unknown with respect to the risks ahead. It also calls for technically competent seafarers with on-hand skills necessary for monitoring and guiding vessels using AI. A completely digitalized shipping means greater reliance on IT, software and communication system which, of course, elevates cyber risk.
- Artificial Intelligence
It is expected that the common use of AI in shipping will lead to reduced staffing and maintenance, better navigation and increased safety by reducing human error. The technology of using data as a tool to learn from the past to help you improve decision-making in the future is invaluable. Automating processes can help identify problems before it happens allowing time to make adjustments. With the help of AI, a prediction of the best path with minimum fuel consumption, and considering the weather can be calculated. The AI empowers the ability to forecast performance, that is, it could take the relationship between speed and power to predict changes in performance due to underwater fouling.
There are pros and cons to everything, and AI is no different. Today, there are still barriers to the widespread adoption of AI in the maritime industry. The need for shared data to make high-quality decisions in an industry forms the foremost blockade to the adoption of AI due to its dependence on quality of data. The AI transformation is a process. The process will involve time constraints, limitations, and development costs.
The idea behind these big developments is the aim to acquire a better position in future freight rate negotiations and increase profitability. In contrast to the overall development of digitalization in the business world, the maritime industry remains very traditional. Digitalization in the maritime industry is moving slowly due to each company in the market searching for its own solution and failing to drive new synergies across the supply chain. Thus new concepts are not being adapted with the appropriate urgency, resulting in an increasing gap compared to other industries with which shipping shares economic interdependence.
These are just some of the trends that are making the shipping industry such an exciting and challenging field to be working in at present. The idea behind these developments is to stimulate a change from within the shipping industry. Doing so can ensure a secure transition into the future for the industry as a whole. The many tough technological problems that our shipping industry is grappling with make marine technology a real land of opportunity for businesses of all sizes. These developments are sure to impact shipping for years to come.