Let’s Be Smart About Intelligent Ships

Digital Technologies in Shipping

“Across industries, geographies and societies massive (technological) change is underway… There is a mass delusion going on that somehow shipping is going to be immune from all of this. That—to paraphrase Robert C Gallagher—change is inevitable, except from a vending machine, and the shipping industry.”
KD Adamson, Futurist & CEO FutureNautics, Shipping 3.0

Smart ships are on the tip of everyone in the shipping industry’s tongue right now, with their potentials for efficiency, cost savings and environmental benefits, but as KD Adamson says, investing in smart shipping isn’t exactly in the plan still for many, at least not yet. We take a look at what smart shipping is, who the players are, and what smart solutions may be out there to accomplish the shipping industry’s goals.

What exactly is a “smart” ship?

First of all, to set the record straight, a smart ship is not necessarily an autonomous vessel (although it could be). In our recent blog post “5 Game Changing Digital Technologies in the Shipping Industry” we came close to a definition (of what makes a ship smart) which we got from Dr. Martin Stopford of Clarksons Research at Splash24/7 “satellite communications, telemetrics and cheap data storage are making it possible to treat a fleet of ships as a single business unit, managing the fleet and optimizing cargo transport as a single business unit.” The tools necessary for a truly smart ship? Stopford advises: “Telematics, satellite communications technology, the cloud, apps and automation.”

Who are the players in smart shipping?

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) has teamed up with with Intel, SK Shipping, Microsoft, the Daejeon Center for Creative Economy and Innovation (DCCEI) and the Ulsan Center for Creative Economy and Innovation (UCCEI) with a plan to develop a smart ship ecosystem by 2019 which will allow shipowners to “monitor a ship’s status and condition in real-time and have at their disposal a wide range of ship operation information including weather, location, and onboard equipment and cargo status data.”

ABB, Rolls-Royce and Wärtsilä are also currently “developing their condition analysis services” as is OSM Maritime. We’re excited that our Shipping2030 Asia event will feature executives from all 4 of those companies: Steffen Tunge Managing Director, COO at OSM Ship Management Pte Ltd, Melvin Mathews Director Maritime at Eniram a Wärtsilä company, Rune Braastad Vice President at ABB Marine & Port Services, and Oscar Levander, Vice President Innovation at Rolls-Royce. On November 30 they will all be guests on our Smart Ships Panel. You can read more here. Braastad and Mathews will also be speaking individually, with presentations on IOSea (Shipping’s Internet of Things) and Smart Ships respectively.

Shipping2030 Asia will also feature an “Innovation Hub” on Smart Shipping, with Mathews joined by executives from Danfoss, Globecom and Klaveness Shore Services. This summer Dr. Phil Robinson of HP gave a great overview of how Klaveness is investing 1-2% of its revenues into digital, and how they have an incubator called KLAB which is used to develop “new digital solutions and services”.

Maersk Group has outfitted its fleet of reefer containers with smart technology, and these “smart containers” have saved them millions of dollars in costs as well as reduced risk to their customers. Maersk has also taken a step further step towards operational efficiency with their My.Maerskline.com site where customers can self-serve. In their annual group magazine Maersk notes it has cut down on “millions of phone calls and emails related to transaction support that Maersk Line handles, enabling it to increase the time it spends on developing business.” He adds: “The data collected will also provide a rich source of insight into customer behaviour.” For an update on Maersk’s digital customer service: Davina Rapaport Regional Communications Manager – Asia Pacific at Maersk Line will speak on “Engaging people in the Digital Age” at Shipping2030 Asia.

DNV GL, who we recently mentioned as pioneers in digital twin technology, is putting half of the 5% of revenues it devotes to R&D investment into digitalization. Intelsat, Inmarsat and other satellite services providers are also major “smart shipping” players as connectivity is indeed an enabler for smart shipping. (Our Shipping 2030 Asia event addresses this with a panel featuring representatives from Intelsat, SATCOM, Globecom and Dualog.) This year Intelsat released data from their survey of ship operators and crew in a white paper released by FutureNautics which you can access here. Interestingly, it said that “half of ship operators indicated that they did undertake some form of data analytics on the data collected from their on-board sensors and applications” so although there is a long way to go, it sounds like the glass is half-full right now when it comes to industry enablement of data analytics.

Smart Ships: The Human Factor

Splash24/7  reports that Frank Coles, CEO of Transas, warned attendees at the UAE Maritime Leaders Summit in Dubai that: “The human on board is loaded with more and more regulations, administrative tasks, technology all with little clarity on how this is supposed to help the human to operate with the technology. We add technology without lightening the load of the tasks. We add technology without considering how it impacts those that must use it.” KD Adamson also touches upon this concern in Shipping 3.0: “high-grade connectivity is affordable for ship operators, and yet they are not investing in it, or leveraging it at anywhere approaching the scale they should. There is a cost involved, but actually it’s about more than that. Investing in communications infrastructure on board a ship isn’t as straightforward as it might appear.”

The shipping industry is spending lots of time, energy and money looking at improving connectivity between ships and relevant real time data – as well as connectivity with their customers. The industry needs to also think about how smart ships will impact their crews’ daily lives. Brent Bruun COO of KVH offers that enhanced connectivity which provides “quality news, sports, and entertainment content onboard” will help to “keep top-caliber crew and officers”. And, as Coles advises, it’s necessary for shipping companies (and those developing software tools) to think about the needs of crews before they adopt these new technologies – not after.

Find out more about smart ships at Shipping2030 Europe, featuring exclusive speaker sessions from global leaders in maritime and digital innovation!

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