Shipping’s path towards the digital era is well underway, with container ships at the forefront of this process. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “shipping, although a conservative and innovation adverse industry, is currently in a transition period of digital transformation. According to a survey conducted by Wärtsilä Marine Business, two-thirds of shipping companies have started on their digital journey, as 69% of them are currently exploring digital solutions. Liner shipping companies are the frontrunners in the pathway to the digital era, in a process of optimizing cargo handling, maritime procurement and logistics, and port operations, with significant efficiency gains and at the same time enhancing efficiency, safety, and minimizing environmental impact. The ‘’smart ‘’maritime technologies can provide benefits in ships’ navigation and communications, in the insurance and the charter market, ship design, ship logistics, and shipbuilding. The shipping companies that are willing to embrace the change will also benefit from lower operational costs, optimizing fleet services, and crew training. In the context of COVID-19, digital technology also has the advantage of minimizing the need for human interaction, which can help increase the maritime sector’s resilience”.
According to Intermodal’s Research Analyst, Ms. Chara Georgousi, “the high availability of data combined with technologies such as digital platforms, real-time tracking data, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and online third-party logistics (3PL) integrations can offer considerable operational expenses (OPEX) reductions and high efficiency in operations. Digital disruption can also reduce the lack in communication between the people on the vessel and those on-shore and increase the uptime of vessels. Shipping carriers, seaports and intermodal transport providers will be able to integrate their processes with the shippers’ own globalized supply chains, providing better visibility of shipments at any given time”.
Ms. Georgousi added that “artificial intelligence (A.I.) can be already found in autonomous vessels and machine learning techniques, used for vessel’s collision avoidance or vessel’s equipment fault-finding and machinery systems condition-based maintenance, offering substantial cost savings. It is also applied to recent energy consumption monitoring and environmental regulations compliance software, as well as in platforms facilitating better decision-making at a strategic level of shipping management. Blockchain technology is also applied on several commercially available platforms, such as TradeLens, Insurwave and CargoX. Even shipping cryptocurrency services are currently under development and are expected to grow faster in the near future”.
“Finally, as with every other innovative technology, there are certain risks associated with the digitalization of the maritime logistical chain and maritime operations. Between February and May 2020, cyberattacks increased by 400% in the maritime industry. The lack of adequate regulatory framework on cybersecurity is still a deterring factor, which prevents further investment in digital solutions. However, important steps have been made by Classification societies, by introducing cybersecurity notations, which can be assigned on both newbuilding and in-service vessels and thus providing a safeguard against potential cyber-attacks. In sum, with all the above-described benefits and with a potential of more than 15% OPEX reduction due to digitalization, the number of smart ships is expected to rapidly grow over the next 5 years”, Intermodal’s analyst concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide