To the cloud

Why the pandemic has accelerated technology uptake in shipping. By Alexander Buchmann


The journey to digitalization for many shipping companies has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic. The lockdowns and restrictions introduced by governments globally last year, forced many businesses to close their offices and move to home working.

Businesses with the right technology in place and access to the cloud could retrieve the data and information they needed to work seamlessly from any location. For others, the pandemic has highlighted major technology gaps.

Since then, we have been approached by many shipping companies wanting to move their businesses into the cloud for the first time, with key drivers being the need to centralize data and make it accessible to staff working at any location, as well to improve business processes and drive down costs.

A recent report from Lloyd’s List and Inmarsat, ‘Digitalisation Uncovered’1 looked at insights from ship owners and ship managers in this period of technology transition. They found that the primary drivers for digitalization were cost reduction and operational efficiencies, followed by regulatory compliance. The findings also pointed to a rapidly increasing need to get data off a vessel in real-time, as opposed to using more manual methods.

In the report, Ronald Spithout, Inmarsat Maritime’s President said: “developments in wider society mean there is no going back for the maritime industries’ digital revolution.”

Supporting the health and wellbeing of seafarers
The demand for technology is not only being driven by the need to support increased remote working – technology is also supporting the health and wellbeing of seafarers.

The health, wellbeing and safety of crews, particularly the thousands who have been left stranded at sea for months since Covid-19 hit, has become a major issue.

The International Maritime Organization2 reported last September that some 400,000 crew members were trapped at sea and continuing to work, as it was impossible for companies to change crews as many governments banned crews from coming ashore amid Covid-19 fears. This is still ongoing for many.

It was also reported3 in July last year that the mental health of seafarers was at ‘tipping point’. With no clear end in sight as to when the pandemic may be over, the mental health fallout is something shipping companies and wider society will need to address this year.

Technology is playing a key supporting role. Having access to the internet to keep in touch with people can be a lifeline and allowing personal internet access so seafarers can send emails or do video calls is something that more shipping companies are recognizing is a way to tackle mental health issues.

This can enable crews to stay connected to the outside world, plus make use of apps to access mental health support or other groups and organizations. Mental health support will be increasingly on the agenda for shipping companies and providing good internet access is something that we expect will increase.

The Lloyd’s List report acknowledged that Covid-19 has prompted a significant increase in the use of video-based connectivity by crew, for social and welfare reasons, and it is highly likely that crew welfare issues will be a top three driver for digital adoption in the future.

The growing need for data analytics
Moving into the cloud is helping with the ongoing challenge of getting data off ships in real-time. It enables sharing of information and data, with everyone able to access it in one central place no matter where they are based. This is transforming business operations and helping shipping companies move away from manual processes.

Business critical information such as important maritime instructions, crew schedules, payroll data and other key communications can now be shared by teams onshore with the crews and it can be actioned immediately, ensuring the company is responsive and dynamic and can react to any situation.

Having access to data analytics is also improving vessel and business performance and is incredibly powerful for ship managers. However, it’s important this data is managed efficiently and analyzed in a structured way so that businesses can clearly interpret it to make insight-driven decisions to achieve their goals and objectives.

We’ve recently integrated Microsoft’s Power BI into our cloud-based fleet management system, to offer shipping companies and ship managers enhanced insights into their operational data and drive a data culture across the organization that will improve business decision making.

To conclude
The past year has seen technology adoption move at pace in the maritime industry. Cloud technology especially is helping to automate many operational tasks such as payroll, scheduling, maintenance and training; and making it easier for ship managers and crew to work no matter where they are based.

With global economic conditions likely to be difficult for the foreseeable future, shipping companies will increasingly need to streamline processes, increase efficiencies and make cost savings to survive. The cloud offers this opportunity, as well as providing data and analytics to gain fresh insights into operations and new ways to improve performance.

1– https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/LL1135064/Digital-advantages-will-grow-as-data-standardisation-comes-closer
2 – https://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/PressBriefings/Pages/32-crew-change-UNGA.aspx
3 – https://www.offshore-energy.biz/seafarer-mental-health-crisis-at-a-tipping-point-due-to-covid-19-impact/

Hanseaticsoft was founded in 2009 by Alexander Buchmann and is now an established global provider of cloud-based software for the maritime industry. Alexander and his team draw on several years of experience in the software department of a medium-sized shipping company in Hamburg, the third largest container harbor in Europe. In Hanseaticsoft, the idea of a new software concept was finally realized: giving enterprises access to new and efficient technologies by means of intuitive software solutions
www.hanseaticsoft.com