Five key takeaways on maritime digital transformation

Five key takeaways on maritime digital transformation

Last week, Digital Ship held its maritime digital transformation forum in Copenhagen. Discussions were based around how to use digital technology to improve fleet performance and decarbonise maritime operations. In this week’s spotlight, we highlight five key messages on maritime digital transformation delivered by speakers presenting at the event.

There are lots of big things that need to be done but it is best to start with solving specific problems. 

Henrik Hyldahn, CEO, Ship Serv who opened the conference and chaired the morning session of the maritime digital transformation forum in Copenhagen said that there are many bigger issues that need to be tackled when it comes to digitalising and making shipping more efficient, but it is important to start solving the smaller, more specific problems first. “We have a role to play as an industry. We have a massive carbon impact on our planet. We see a number of initiatives to combat this, but if you ask a shipowner then they will find it very hard to find the balance between improving decarbonisation and at the same time looking at how the value gain is actually performed,” he said.

Henrik Hyldahn, CEO of Ship Serv opening the maritime digital transformation forum in Copenhagen last week.

Daniel Kampman, CEO & partner at Alpina Chartering said that he is starting to see the smaller issues optimised, but wants to now see how these can lead to the bigger gains. “When do we see the big moves that will really transform the shipping industry? We see lots of smaller moves in optimisation but we’re waiting to see a bigger move – the Netflix, the Amazon of shipping. Right now we’re looking at the smaller optimisations but how can we make them a little bit better, where do we see the next big moves?”

Technology and humans must be able to work together harmoniously to make the most of advances in digital solutions.

Another key point highlighted throughout the conference was the compatibility of new digital technologies with humans.

“We have to ensure technologies are designed to work together with humans,” said Mikkel Hansen, CEO of the Maritime Development Centre. The challenge for many is making sure advanced technologies add value in performance optimisation and for this to happen they must provide the right help to the right people. “We need to consider ships from a systemic perspective, part of something bigger,” he said.

Steen Lykke Pedersen, head of dry dockings and maintenance strategies at Maersk Supply Service believes that having the right competencies is vital to making sure these technologies create value. “I believe in people but I also believe that we have to combine human knowledge with data to succeed in this space. You need to combine the right data and the right people.”  He went on to say that combining human knowledge with the knowledge obtained from data is a challenge that needs to be addressed in order to progress with improving vessel and business performance.

Learning from other industries is vital to making progress in addressing the complex challenges maritime is facing.

Mikkel Hansen believes that while in the shipping industry, “might be experts at building and operating ships, it does not mean that we have the answers to the challenges that we face.” He went on to say that, “technology is getting complicated and we cannot rely only on educating our own expertise for the future operational challenges. We need to look outside our domain in order to learn. To get inspiration, we have to attract talent from outside maritime and we must have non-maritime companies to invest and develop solutions for shipping.”

Steen Lykke Pedersen agreed and confirmed that at Maersk Supply Service they are, “looking elsewhere, to seek inspiration and see how we can do things in a different way.”

Digitalising and decarbonising are essential to improving the shipping business but driving them in a reactive and fragmented industry is difficult.

Christopher Rex, head of innovation & research at Danish Ship Finance

Christopher Rex, head of innovation & research at Danish Ship Finance said that he sees some people and companies not wanting to digitalise or decarbonise because there is too much uncertainty and risk, with the ‘wait and see’ a common approach taken. “I would argue that there’s no option to wait because digitalisation and decarbonisation was not invented for the shipping industry, it is a global trend. The shipping and other industries are connected too and so we need to move ahead and not wait to find out how to navigate in this digital space.”

Peter Andersen, CEO of GTTAnalytics and the afternoon chairman of the conference said that one issue with the decarbonisation of the shipping industry is that it is a reactive, rather than proactive, industry that is driven by societal pressure. “We are reactive and compliance driven, rather than taking the lead. There’s this industry inertia where everyone prefers for someone else to take the first risks. I’m sure there are some great solutions waiting on the side-line, but nobody is prepared to be the first mover,” he said.

While he praised the efforts of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, he highlighted one issue in shipping that makes working towards these goals a challenge. Referencing Mark Williams who recently wrote in the Macro Macchiato, he said, “what is the point of decarbonising bulk carriers if they are hauling coal to coal fired power plants around the world. We have to find a balance between that, perhaps finding ships that will be sustainable for their purpose.”

Achieving true transparency is a challenge, but focussing on changing human behaviour could change this.

According to Daniel Kampman, CEO & partner at Alpina Chartering, while increasing transparency is often talked about by shipping players, the industry just isn’t inclined to be that way and it doesn’t seem to want to be. “I think both the shipping and bunker industries don’t like transparency. The margin is on non-transparency and that is the issue that we are facing.”

One way he believes this can be changed is to use ratings to change human behaviour. “Ratings are one of the most powerful tools to correct behaviour. Most people won’t book a hotel room without looking at the rating’s before.” He believes by getting people to change their behaviour, transparency can be improved.