Digitalisation in the maritime industry is inevitable, with the advent of rapidly evolving technology and the need for sustainable shipping. Automation with digital data-flow has the potential to enhance safety and improve environmental performance and to assist compliance with EEXI, CII and other provisions, breach of which could be costly in ways that are a lot more significant than just financial penalty.
Digitalisation – uses and advantages
I list some of the main ones as follows:
- Fuel consumption and maintenance – digitalisation helps with online monitoring of fuel consumption and can allow trends to be analysed for better understanding of engine efficiency, performance and related maintenance.
- Vessel performance – digitalisation technology can convey all relevant data to shore management in respect of optimal vessel routing, and AI-based machine learning via digitised systems can progressively improve vessel performance.
- Maintenance prediction – digitalisation technology can perform condition monitoring and predict critical equipment issues and general wear and tear, and so reduce maintenance costs in preventing breakdown by means of early notification.
- Data transparency – digital solutions are critical to the increasing need for data transparency as part of regulatory compliance.
- Reduction of fuel consumption and GHG – digitalisation can provide user-friendly Human Machine Interface systems and a hydrodynamic optimisation programme to calculate real time operating conditions. This is based on dynamic algorithms developed from vessel data and will indicate optimal trim, draft and speed in order to cut fuel consumption and GHG emissions.
- Crew wellbeing and medical response – evolving maritime satellite communications facilitate the rapid and seamless exchange of information between ship and shore in order to deliver emergency medical advice and treatment, and also mental health support, by connecting the crew directly to medical professionals ashore.
- Port resources, information management and the vessel’s balanced scoreboard – more generally, digitalisation will help a vessel’s managers to develop strategies to achieve their daily goal of operating the best ships in the industry.
But more is needed.
Digitalisation – what steps must we take?
There are many related ones, as follows:
- Organisational strategy -every company has tohave suitably qualified staff to meet the demands of these new technologies and align digital with business strategy.
- Training and motivation – continuous training and motivation is required, so all employees can progressively increase their awareness of the benefits of digital transformation. As well as greatly improving performance, this will help employers overcome inevitable resistance to change and will give employees confidence with unfamiliar structures, both of which are key factors in successful digitalisation.
- Collaboration and coordination – every maritime organisation should be encouraged as regards investment and initiatives to improve collaboration and coordination, in order to share best practices and pool resources and skills.
- Use of the latest technologies – the latest innovative technologies can reduce digitalisation costs and so increase productivity, and also address cybersecurity risks and enhance security measures in our industry.
- Focus on refreshing human resources – manycompanies will need to redesign their organisational goals in order to implement digitalisation, and so acquire specificnew talent in order to accomplish this.
- Enhanced training – this obviously important aspect might be outsourced to organisations who are experienced in internal development, skill building and talent review.
- IT and system integration – the right tools, integrated systems and connectivity are all required for data-collection, sharing and analysis, in aid of remote monitoring, control and cyber security.
- Automation – introducing new automation technology may offer company-wide solutions as regards fuel consumption, power system optimisation and waste-heat recovery.
- Performance monitoring – digitalisation needs to be applied to performance monitoring in aid of reducing fuel consumption by means of efficient energy management systems, which will further reduce operational costs and GHG emissions by environmentally friendly operation.
- Future planning – companies need to start out with their identified goals and work backwards from that, in order to prioritise data and how it is handled and marshalled. This will also help demonstrate greater transparency, and in the context of increasing supply chain volatility.
- Database management – companies will need a structure that manages all datasets so as to ensure that data is always accurate, validated, consistent and ready to support automation and analytics across different user groups. Without an appropriate data governance model, digitalisation initiatives will not deliver the expected value.
- Innovation and asset-building – in this new world, organisations must always treat data as an asset. With a structured and innovative data governance structure and a digital repository, companies can begin to use data itself to reduce risk, improve service delivery and drive growth through efficiency, innovation and continuous optimisation.
- Standardisation -policymakers and international organisations need to establish standards to ensure that all data-driven processes can be universally operated in worldwide shipping.
- Future-proof regulations – as far as possible – technology continues to advance at an exponential rate but developing laws, regulations and international instruments to provide necessary governance is a long process. To avoid regulatory gaps, today’s policymakers and regulators should take account of evolution in technology.
- Global stakeholder participation – no single country, company or interest group can, or should, set the standard on digital platforms. Conversely, it is important to provide the governments of developing countries with the opportunity to participate in setting the relevant global benchmarks, for example through capacity building and active participation in international forums.
Successful digital transformation – which is what digitalisation is – requires not only the right set of tools but also the right expertise and guidance to drive the process, and also to counter the misconception that a company just needs to upgrade its equipment and technology.
Digitalisation is not just about changes in technology – it is also about an organisation’s ability to adapt to those changes, and that can be a major problem even for companies with robust digital transformation strategies. All maritime industry stakeholders must be ready to meet the constantly changing requirements to invest in people, processes and also technology, in order to complete a successful digital transformation.