Maritime industry experts say profitable and user-friendly technologies are needed to facilitate inter-company collaboration
A recent Lloyd’s digitalisation webinar concluded benefits of digital technologies improve with market penetration, while trust, ease of use and profitability are essential for wider adoption. Pierre Guillemin, vice president for technology at Wärtsilä Voyage remarked: “Optimisation of operations needs masses of data, and improvement will need data on an industrial scale. Companies cannot do this alone.”
Enabling collaboration within the industry
Guillemin concurred leveraging A.I. and machine learning to improve performance holds promise. He added, “I think these are typical examples whereas a group or an ecosystem, we might be able to crack them collectively. If individual players are trying to solve it by themselves, it is going to be fairly difficult. We need to find ways to be able to trust one another. Expertise will be needed from outside of the industry, and companies must first be able to see that partners are working for mutual benefits and solving tangible problems, instead of stealing a digital ecosystem.”
Sven Brooks, senior director for IoT business development at KVH, said that the adoption of technology and standards should be broader. Digital Container Shipping Association’s efforts to adopt long range standards for container tracking should be extended to ship design and newbuilds so vessels launched are equipped to use digital technologies.
“These networks need to be wider than they already are; covering vessels from the building stage to recycling. We can do that by looking to other fields and industries,” he added – identifying air and ground transportation as sectors with relevant expertise to benefit the maritime industry.
Brooks noted, “Ground transportation might not be as remote compared to shipping, but when you look at the sensors deployed on standard trucks and lorries to monitor freight, that is something where we can gain a lot of knowledge and experience on. We can subsequently reach big players and welcome them to the maritime industry.”
Hurdles to digital transformation
Søren Christian Meyer, chief executive of ZeroNorth identified the major blockers to digital improvement; enabling parties like charterers to make better decisions, and convincing users of digital platforms to share data. ZeroNorth was spun out of Maersk Tankers, the world’s largest product tanker operator. Meyer said there were insufficient data despite a fleet of over 220 vessels. The data had to be aggregated in a bigger forum and ZeroNorth today has access to data from 2,000 vessels, making the data more resilient.
Meyer highlighted: “The pitfall here is the reluctance to share (data). One would share when more returns are assured. I think this is what it is all about – ensuring you receive more value soon after sharing your data.”
Ioannis Martinos, chief executive, Signal Group explained, “Demonstrating value in the maritime industry is a difficult thing. We need to be able to communicate better, and prove the existence of real value in our technology.” He quoted the example of the years taken to persuade the industry of Mewis Duct’s efficiency benefits and accompanying savings. Martinos also noted another pitfall to avoid is bad user experience; hardware and software should be easy to adopt for companies and intuitive, with accessible benefits sans the need for training.