Peter Ruffley and Kevin Martin discuss how the global pandemic has provided a catalyst for change, and a real opportunity for maritime to try new ideas, approaches and technologies, especially from other sectorstechnologies, sectors
The maritime industry plays an absolutely vital role in delivering goods and services to those that need it. As the backbone of our supply chain, maritime allows for the cost-effective movement of any goods from one country to another.
The scale of the sector is enormous, facilitating 95 per cent of the UK’s trade at a value of £46.1bn to the UK’s GVA in 2017 and the global sector is set to be worth a staggering $3 trillion by 2030. Maritime isn’t just about the ships, but also includes the logistics, ports, insurers, technology companies, legislative and consulting businesses, and any country with a shoreline has an interest.
As a result of the pandemic, almost overnight, organizations in the traditional sector have had to implement new digital ways of working to maintain the flow of international trade, with many experiencing a net productivity increase as the workforce committed to making the transition work. In the post-Covid-19 economy, the maritime sector will play an even bigger role; with many new technologies being explored that will allow the industry to drive real change.
One of the criticisms laid at the feet of the maritime industry is that it can be slow to adapt to changes in the market. However, being a late adopter could also be seen as an advantage, as when the time has come to change, much of the technology required to transition successfully is already available at a suitable cost.
Capitalizing on innovation
Both offshore and onshore, shipping companies will have to digitize their operations as much as possible in order to operate more profitably and efficiently, and be able to unlock the vast potential of their data.
The new appreciation of technology within the industry presents a real opportunity for transformation. In order to attract new talent with fresh ideas, existing players must accept that traditional processes may change significantly, and be willing to consider alternative approaches. For their part, technologists must not assume that the existing business is entirely irrelevant. The future success of the industry will be defined through a collaborative effort between industry and digital experience.
Shipping has always made some use of data to provide specific solutions (Automatic Identification System data for ship tracking, weather data for forecasting, port data for calls, vessel identification, for example). But AI and machine learning are driving new data application opportunities, alongside a joined-up, global view of data, which other industries such as automotive and aerospace have put at the forefront of their operations for years – predictive maintenance is a good example. Those who learn to harness this data and make all of their data work for them, will grow faster, become more productive and lead in this new era.
One significant challenge to the maritime industry that can cause delays to the supply chain and financial penalties is that a large proportion of vessels are late when delivering cargo. Though this is often for a number of reasons, including inclement weather, there remains a battle of who to blame in these delays. But the answer isn’t pointing the finger, it’s looking at the data available and using this information to find out why this problem is consistently occurring and mitigating it from happening. By using available data, organizations can predict the risks associated with each shipping route, analyzing elements such as weather data and historical captain performance, to determine the likelihood of the vessel being late, which in turn, will bring great economic benefit.
Sharing and evolving
Another hurdle to overcome within the maritime sector is a lack of communication and knowledge sharing around innovation within the industry. Data sharing is a prominent subject at most maritime industry events, with organizations on all sides extolling the virtues of open data. Yet those same organizations are unwilling to share data. Rather than open discussion amongst the industry as a whole, there is seemingly a cloak and dagger approach – mistrust between companies that they might use information to their advantage. This is also evident amongst other industries, including logistics and hospitality, where there are gaping holes in the data-sharing element, as organizations aren’t willing to share the data they have with others to the benefit of the sector.
This issue is largely down to inexperience with data governance. In the majority of organizations, IT is still regarded in the traditional sense. In order to advance the data conversation in the industry, organizations must evolve their organizational structure to include technology-focused roles, such as the Chief Information Officer. An experienced CIO can introduce the governance and control structures around data that will give organizations the confidence to participate in data sharing activities.
Without a joined-up approach, the maritime industry will not be able to benefit from a holistic view and enhanced insight into how the sector can advance.
Growing data pool
The improvement in location data records provided by the widespread deployment of satellites and improved ship broadband connectivity have already begun improving vessel operational performance, as well as quality of life for thousands of seafarers. Round the clock connectivity facilitates oversight of even the most remotely operating vessels, allowing crews and companies to understand and react to changing local and global events as they occur. A dramatic increase in the availability of data can provide individual organizations and industry groups with extraordinary abilities to address existing challenges, cutting to the heart of issues, providing solutions and identifying new opportunities along the way. For the maritime sector, harnessing the potential of this data is now the industry’s greatest opportunity, as well as challenge. The industry must therefore seize the moment and come together to unlock the full value of its pooled data, whilst demonstrating its credentials and importance to the
The new challenges associated with governing and handling large and complex data sets can be daunting for many organizations who already struggle with the status quo. To be successful, organizations throughout the industry must arm themselves at all levels with the knowledge and skills to control, process, manage and use data. Businesses who can introduce the elements needed to operationalize data and expose previously hidden business insights can gain a significant competitive advantage.
Automation is also coming to the wider maritime sector, with a number of global initiatives to attract start-ups and scale-ups to bring their innovative solutions to mission-critical systems and speed up operations. There are different levels of automation, most of which still involve significant human involvement. One huge opportunity is to automate dangerous or repetitive tasks on-board ships. This creates many benefits for the industry, a priority being the reduction of human error that often plays a key role in the cause of accidents at sea. Additionally, an improvement in efficiency, even of a relatively small amount, can deliver huge monetary benefits due to the scale of the port operations.
Remotely-controlled and autonomous shipping technology is developing rapidly. Eventually, vessels on the sea may have the capability to efficiently and successfully evaluate their surrounding environment as well as the health of the ship itself, enabling crucial decisions to be made based on this data.
Providing the maritime industry updates its thinking alongside IT capabilities, the two hand in hand will help the sector to thrive in the short term and into the future. There are huge savings to be made, efficiencies to be gained and advancements generated, once the industry totally embraces these innovations and digitizes their process with a solid data-based foundation. By breaking these barriers and offering greater collaboration, we will see a rapid movement in maritime towards digital innovation.
Peter Ruffley is CEO, Zizo and Kevin Martin is Head of Client Services at 3DEO. Zizo enables organisations of any scale to work with their data effectively to drive improved performance and increased efficiencies. By enabling fast access to data, combined with extremely flexible architecture, Zizo is able to drastically reduce the time it takes to get the right information, to the right person, at the right time. In addition, the platform allows users to experiment with data, enrich that data with external data sources and share their ideas with others.
3DEO are experts in combining 3D visualisation, earth observation and big data analytics. It knows that it is time-consuming and costly for organizations to respond to critical situations with the right solution. Its cost-effective and customisable solutions provide them with easy-to-use tools, informing decisions and turning problems into opportunities.