With a large variety of technologies, trends, business strategies and operational processes transforming shipping through digitalisation, it is important to think big, start small but scale fast.
The overabundance of technological trends driving digital transformation within the shipping industry means that it is important to think big, start small but scale fast.
An easy thing to say, another thing to achieve. And as many in the shipping industry look to digitalise their fleet, systems and/or operations, they are keeping an eye on their bottom-line.
Ahead of Shipping2030 in March, I spoke with Lars Jensen (SeaIntelligence Consulting), Olaf Danckwerts (HHX.blue) and Costi Karayannis (V Group Limited) about their participation at the event. The event brings together key stakeholders who are shaping a sustainable and digitised future for the shipping industry.
We briefly discussed the importance of each of their areas of expertise, touching on topics, trends and projects they would discuss at the event.
Seafarers: preparing for the future
Mr. Karayannis is part of a panel discussing the workforce demands and maritime professionals of the future, believes that, “Whilst the industry is clearly starting to innovate, there needs to be a mindset change in what skills we provide to our crew. The mentality of the checklist or matrix just isn't sufficient.”
He noted, “The key topics for me are the changes in technical skills, in line with increasing automation and reduction in mechanical equipment on board. The changes in behaviours and attitudes, to reflect the increasing importance of human factors, reducing crew numbers, and to align to other safety-critical industries. [How are we shaping] the cadet of the future, since this is the only real way of making fundamental change, and ship to shore communications [and how they] blur the divide.”
Cyber-security’s priority and standards
When I asked Mr. Jensen (chairing a panel discussing the cyber-security landscape in 2019) why he thinks this topic is so important and what he is looking forward to hearing from the panel, he noted:
"We are seeing a rapid scale-up in the use of IoT devices. Both in terms of sensor technology on board the vessels… [and] in terms of trackers upon containers, there is a lot of digital equipment that is now being put on board ships, for all the right reasons.
"But that means that we need to make sure that the safety which we embed in these devices also follows suit, otherwise we are going to run into some significant challenges and losses. And it is a lot easier to deal with these issues by designing security into the solution from the start rather than to slap on a band aid at a later point in time.
"What I am particularly interested in are discussions around what are we seeing being done? We've been talking cyber-security for several years and how important it is, but what is actually being done? From another angle, have we done enough? Are we now safe? That's hardly a resolvable question because clearly, we are not. But at least we are just ticking it off from that perspective."
ROI: keys to success
Mr. Danckwerts, who will be part of a panel discussing financing and measuring the success of digitalisation strategies, noted that from the perspective of an independent digital financing ecosystem for shipping, he is convinced of the advantages of digitalisation and sees strong manifold components impacting a high ROI.
He gave three areas as examples: accessibility, transparency and quality.
From an accessibility point of view, he noted; “[it’s] Easier access to freight, to finance, easier services from third parties like insurance. Costs can be reduced by comparisons between different service suppliers; access to new service suppliers is easily possible.”
With regards to transparency he said, “Being aware that transparency has not always been in favour of some ship owners, I am convinced that there is no alternative. Looking around some conferences you can see companies connected very well to Silicon Valley and looking around for opportunities in the maritime business. Having in mind that they are focused on digital data, you can be sure that they will step in the market and go for transparency when ship owners miss this.
“Furthermore, it will be a selling point. When you are able to offer a high degree of transparency and high-quality data to your business partners, they will honour this. Increase of credibility and trustworthiness will be the outcome. Freight owners will love to get to know where their freight is and when it arrives exactly in the harbour and how the conditions have been during the trip. Lenders will love to know where their vessel is sailing and under what conditions. Further, in case of the sale of a vessel, a buyer will be willing to pay a premium if a proper track record (based on data) can be added to the vessel.”
With regards to quality, Mr. Danckwerts noted; “In general digitalisation will also enable a higher quality of ship management as the shipowner will be able to follow the master in a better way. A better controlling from onshore to onboard will be enabled. Routes can be optimized, sensors e.g. connected with the engines will even enable a maintenance on demand and not any longer on basis of a periodical maintenance plan. All these aspects support efficiency and help to save money to increase the ROI.”
The importance of collaboration
When I asked Mr. Jensen about collaboration and transparency in cybersecurity, he explained that quality and standardization go hand-in-hand and would be essential to the future of cybersecurity.
"If you think it through, you always have multiple people involved. I am going to steer outside of maritime for a moment, but if you think about all the technologies around an autonomous car you will easily have dozens, upon dozens of different providers of different components, and it only requires one of those not to live up to standard for everything to be compromised. It's the same thing in maritime - I can do whatever I want to my ship, but I cannot necessarily interfere with, for example, the ECDIS setup that I have procured from someone else.
"I need to make sure that it is safe, I need to make sure that everything I procure is safe in that mixed environment because we are in a mixed environment, and will continue to be in a mixed environment, so the more collaboration that we have across all the different stakeholders, the better off we are going to be."
While each of the industry heavyweights consulted work in different areas of the shipping industry, there were some common threads to their answers.
Training, whether on ship or on shore, will be important to the adoption and value which companies draw from digital, and in this era of digital, companies need to maximise their data utilisation. Connectivity will be key to ensuring the collection of this valuable information, but collaboration will put it to work for the benefit of individual companies and the wider shipping community.
In closing each discussion, I asked why each speaker thought events such as Shipping2030 were important to shipping industry.
Mr. Karayannis noted that, “The more public discussion there is on these topics, the most change the industry has of moving forward.”
Mr. Jensen believed events were useful to convey a greater amount of information face-to-face. "It always goes a long way in having some of these discussions face to face, especially when it comes to talking about issues that are not yet entrenched in our daily work routines,” he said.
"You even have people around that share personal experiences... It becomes real and allows people to convey a sense that these things happen not always out of stupidity or negligence, but even to people who are relatively vigilant."
Mr. Danckwerts noted, “On the one side the interested parties get a chance to find more information, [but on the other side] further parties will attend who get inspiration about increasing efficiency by using new digital tools and of course the mixture of attendees is the value of the conference. People talking and discussing new developments are of very high importance. I think discussions with different points of view could be very helpful to inspire the audience to continue discussions.”