Worldwide trade on the scale, at the cost and with the ease seen today is made possible by the maritime industry alone. It is the backbone and also lifeblood of global commerce, with more than 80% of all goods transported by sea.
Any strategy in this vital sector should describe what we seek to achieve, and our values must be enduring, distinctive core beliefs which form an essential part of that strategy.
My own maritime industry ambitions would be to:
- Develop digitalisation with fully incorporated Artificial Intelligence by 2050. Smart shipping will make the sector a cleaner, safer and more efficient place to work. Digitalisation – the adoption of digital technologies – will improve business practices across the industry;
- Develop wind propulsion, in order to further the decarbonisation of shipping;
- Fully embrace diversity and create a supportive and open atmosphere for all to be able to achieve their potential.
Plainly, today’s vessels already have some degree of this, such as the Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (the familiar ECDIS) which have replaced paper charts. The immediate future should see an acceleration of these trends, by using Artificial Intelligence, robotics and sensors within ECDIS and all other shipboard equipment.
With that we could:
a. Support crew interaction with progressively more complicated machinery. This would increase vessel and seafarer efficiency, optimising performance (by means of advanced data analytics) and also improving safety by reducing human error;
b. Ensure that ships and ports are more closely connected, and improve business decisions, all by better data analysis and more robust communications;
c. Realise significant cost savings and create more efficient logistics and supply chains, by more effective management of huge data sets.
New technology should also be resilient and well protected against the ever increasing threat of cyber-attack.
According to the IMO, shipping accounts for nearly 3% of worldwide CO2 emissions. However, scientists have projected that this could rise to 17% by 2050. Thus the sustainability movement is rightly making waves and rewriting the rules for virtually every maritime stakeholder.
To ensure that we meet the IMO 2050 target of reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to 2008, we have to promote the use of greener alternatives, such as LNG, as viable and clean transitional marine fuels.
But nobody can tackle decarbonisation alone. The global shipping community has to work together to build capacity, share best practices and ensure a level playing field for all, in order to develop viable and scalable low-carbon marine fuels and other solutions.
I believe that wind propulsion will help to even things up in the decarbonisation of shipping. Wind-driven vessels (which would obviously also have an auxiliary motor) can deliver up to 100% savings, and would incur no more than standard maintenance costs. The challenges, of course, would be maintaining schedules and susceptibility to weather conditions, with some routes obviously more favourable to this type of vessel.
But the development of increasingly reliable weather/wind routing software would help to predict, plan and operationally adjust sailing routes, in order to maximise the benefits of wind and minimise disruption from adverse conditions.
The maritime workforce of the future will be increasingly diverse. New roles, new technologies and a continuing changing image of the sector will attract people from all backgrounds, and will expand the roles of bodies like the Women in Maritime Network in addressing diversity as a whole.
The future of the maritime industry will be very different to its past. We can harness technology to grasp opportunities, and at the same time we can build a sector that is open to everyone. A more diverse maritime industry will make the marine world, and the wider one in which it plays such a crucial role, better for all.
Pausing here on the question of livelihoods, it is clear that many are worried about losing their jobs as know-how develops. However, I strongly believe that new technology will create different, and often highly-skilled, opportunities, and will thus help to make maritime careers more attractive to a more diverse range of people.
Zero is achievable
The sea can be a dangerous place and adverse incidents, whether technical, mechanical or through human error, are all too frequent.
We must strive towards zero injuries, zero pollution, zero accidents, and make the sea a much safer place to work on and to enjoy recreationally. A perfect record is obtainable, by 2050, by the use of Artificial Intelligence and new technologies.
The maritime industry will continue to face many hurdles, certainly in terms of decarbonisation and digitalisation. However, it has always been agile, and the pandemic has shown its resilience. I am sure that the industry will be all hands on deck to tackle the challenges ahead. To make progress, we have to adapt to the changes that we face, and so create a maritime industry that is ready to lead the world.