Automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can not only be used to make operations smoother, more efficient, and less costly, but they can also help shipping generate a lower environmental footprint and create a higher quality of life for seafarers. However, additional sensors and equipment to measure the efficiency of operations, promotes the big question of how to turn gargantuan datasets into real vessel performance enhancing solutions. Sometimes this leads shipping players to wonder if the steps taken in the digital transformation are really worth the effort. According to the Norwegian scientists, some companies are very open to technological evolution, while others are much more conservative. Some will distance themselves from the digital revolution, while others will welcome it with arms wide open.
When we look at digitalisation and what it means to different companies and different people, the answers vary. VPO Global asked several different companies how they see digitalisation as a chance to make efficiency gains in vessel performance.
KVH chief operating officer, Brent Bruun, was asked about the importance of discussing and sharing data to build a more connected and efficient maritime ecosystem.
“The growth of big data increases every day and is endless. It is vital that the shipping industry improve collaboration and data integration to take advantage of the vast amount of information. Big data analytics will allow the industry to uncover insights, trends, and correlations currently hidden. Real-time data creates opportunities for optimization in every aspect of the shipping industry – energy management, route planning and optimization, predictive maintenance, environmental management, as well as vessel safety and security. Port traffic management can be improved and fleet managers will be more effective as real-time data will allow productive monitoring of the operational readiness and performance of their vessels. KVH is excited by the benefits that big data initiatives bring to our customers to help them increase their operational efficiency.”
Gert Jakobsen, vice president, group communications at DFDS says that digitalisation is increasingly important for the ferry operator and the company is keen to invest, so much so last year was their biggest investment in digital technologies to date. “In 2017 we invested DK 100m in digital developments and more in hiring new people that have the capabilities for digital developments. It makes it easier for customers to see what is going on and it allows us to get new solutions to market faster. E,g, new apps new to freight businesses to check cargo spaces and where cargos are at. Also gives info about traffic jams and roads to and from ports and what the routes are like. Digitalisation helps us to frame our business operations.
The digital side is also where we want to push more. Get more people in and young people that already have these skills in digital operations. Digital can be used to help disrupt ourselves. But we have some inequality in shipping. The new, young people come in to help us grow the digital side of the business.”
The recruitment of new titles and new people as part of the digital transformation is also happening as companies move into more digital operations. Stuart Nicholls told VPO Global that “They’re even recruiting Chief Digital Officers, Chiefs Information Officers, and a range of other Chief titles. All these roles are looking at digitising the entire paper trail of the company, including vessel operational data acquisition.”
“The other issue is sharing the data. While the industry can generate this data, store it and use it for each individual operation, sharing data helps gain insight into the biggest gains that can be made in vessel operations.”
Nicholls told VPO Global that while “generating this data and going digital is advancing well, sharing data is something that the industry is still a little reserved on. This is a very difficult area and a difficult one to resolve at the moment because the industry is are so digitally immature.
When it comes to data security, there is a great model to follow in terms of the process of SOLAS . In this field, shipowners take confidence in some very pragmatic steps that the shipping industry has built up over decades. We have type approval, we have class societies, we have a number of policing mechanisms. We don’t have this kind of legislative framework for data yet. If we had a type approval-style process for data sharing and security – something the industry is very good at – this would build up the level of trust needed to get the most out of data sharing.”