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Live From Sea Asia 2017
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Digitalisation tops the agenda on opening day of Sea Asia 2017

Industry leaders today kicked off discussions at the sixth edition of Sea Asia with a focus on digitalisation and the need for industry players to embrace this new reality in order to remain competitive in today’s market environment.

In particular, industry leaders emphasised that there needs to be a change in mind-set towards one that is more receptive to digital transformations in the industry.

Taking place in Singapore until Thursday, 27 April, Sea Asia 2017 brings together leaders of the maritime and offshore industries to discuss, debate and analyse challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, Khaw Boon Wan, said that with the advent of digitalisation in the industry, the Government is taking steps to help companies in Singapore develop capabilities to succeed in the future.

For example, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) enhanced Maritime Cluster Fund now provides more co-funding for companies that want to use technology to optimise their processes or transform their business models.

Khaw also highlighted the importance of preparing the local workforce for transformations driven by digitalisation in the industry, adding that the jobs of tomorrow will be markedly different from today.

“We have to ensure that our maritime manpower is equipped to handle transformation, and for some of them, to drive the transformation,” said Khaw.

Experts on the panel of the Sea Asia Global Forum commented on the need to provide an enabling environment that allows for the maritime workforce to learn and be comfortable with the idea of digitalisation in the industry.

“When it comes to digitalisation, the word to think about is not disruption, but transformation. There are many opportunities that come with the transformations that digitalisation brings to the industry and hence, we have to learn to change the way we’re thinking about it. The maritime industry needs to create an environment that allows for its people to experiment with new technologies and learn how to use them.

“It’s all about changing people’s mind-sets on digitalisation and making them confident that they can work with the changes,” said Piyush Gupta, ceo of DBS Group who was one of the panellists of the Sea Asia Global Forum.

Despite this, industry leaders still recognise the ongoing need for a more human element in the industry.

Oskar Levander, vice president innovation, engineering & technology - marine, Rolls-Royce, said at ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Threat or Opportunity?’ session: “Digitalisation is changing everything in the industry, from the way ships are run to how business models are shaped. With digitalisation, I believe there will eventually be remote and autonomous shipping; but this is not to say that all ships will be unmanned and that no crew is needed.”

With expanded technology also comes added risk – another factor companies need to consider when adopting a more digital approach.

Speaking at the same session, Michael Montoya, chief cybersecurity advisor, Microsoft Asia, said: “Companies must embrace technology… but as you expand your digital footprint, you do open yourself to risks in the form of cybersecurity. However, there are ways to protect yourself from that risk, and there are smart ways that you can implement that will allow you to continue on that maturity journey to put much better services and systems in place.”

The industry leaders also highlighted the importance of coming together to discuss and analyse new trends such as digitalisation at a regional platform such as Sea Asia.

Seatrade chairman Chris Hayman said: "Since the first event in 2007, Sea Asia has trebled in size and we are expecting more than 16,000 participants from around 80 countries for this year’s edition.

"This event gives us all the opportunity to hear from the leaders of the industry in this region, and their counterparts from around the world," he said.

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