November 27, 2021

Digitalization in the Shipping & Maritime Industry


In the current landscape, ‘to digitize or not’ directly correlates to ‘perform or perish’ for every industry.   

The maritime industry has been an unhurried adopter of digital transformation – with digital solutions being deployed in bits and pieces, it is fair to say that the industry has been treading digital waters at quite a slow pace. However, with most players in the industry still following legacy systems and processes, it is essential to understand the changes digital transformation can bring to the sector.   

Digital solutions and advanced automation are slowly becoming the go-to for businesses to enhance operational efficiency and improve their competitive stance. However, digital transformation is not just about using advanced technologies but about changing the business’s adaptability, cultural mindset, and process efficiency. It is about transforming the people, processes, and tools at the core.   

Transforming Legacy Processes of the Maritime Sector   

The maritime industry is struggling to stay afloat due to restricted profit margins and freight rates. It is facing challenges in meeting the immediate delivery demands of customers due to manual activities, cumbersome documentation, and complex protocols. Most of their time and investments go into training and deploying their staff to handle shipments and cargo manually. Moreover, the manual, unplanned slot allocation process on a vessel leads to revenue losses and inefficiencies in capacity management.   

The shipping industry’s future will be characterized by real-time vessel tracking, cargo management, unmanned digital voyages, intelligent capacity management, dynamic freight, digital documentation, and end-to-end port management, thanks to advanced digital technologies such as big data IoT augmented reality, cloud, etc. These technologies and digital strategies will replace the slow, time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone paper-based methods, which will result in secure, sustainable operations and improved speed and efficiency of processes.   

The Impacts of Digital Technologies Across Touchpoints   

Digital transformation will play a significant role in bringing the distributed pieces of maritime logistics under one cohesive umbrella. Connected IoT devices, big data analytics, automation, and AI are gradually becoming a reality in the industry, leading to transparency and visibility in end-to-end supply chain processes and ensuring profits.   

IoT: Enhances fleet operations and eliminates human errors 

Connected IoT devices and onboard sensors will simplify the transmission of information from the ship to the shore and substantially improve fleet and ship operations. Connected IoT will fast-track the collection of critical data, which can be used along with analytics to derive useful insights, prevent costly errors, and thereby improve efficiency.  

Sensor technology will make it convenient for ship owners to get real-time information about their vessels without visiting remote locations. In addition, onboard sensors will improve the maintenance cycles of the ships with condition-based monitoring, which will notify ship owners when a piece of equipment requires maintenance. This will benefit all the aspects of operations by optimizing maintenance, reducing service costs, enhancing route planning and cargo handling, and saving fuel consumption.   

Autonomous vehicles powered by IoT have emerged in the automotive and airline sectors, and the maritime industry will soon widely adopt them. Implementing autonomous, crewless vessels will mitigate the excessive costs of training and deploying skilled labor and drastically reduce difficulties caused due to manual errors. The remote and autonomous ships will change the maritime industry’s functions by eliminating the dependencies on manual resources and improving cost efficiency, accuracy, and speed.  

A digitally connected supply chain with end-to-end logistics and port management will improve communication with terminals, freight stations, and intermodal companies and enable optimized and effective cost structures for the shipping company, leading to smooth operations and cargo movement.   

These emerging technologies will create an interconnected digital ecosystem, eliminating the probability of manual errors, lowering the risks associated with the non-traceability of shipments and cargo, and reducing inefficiencies in the maritime industry.   

 
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Improves data analysis and decision-making   

With more data being collected from various sources, big data analytics is widely used across industries to analyze the data, deduce correlations, and optimize operations. For example, in the maritime sector, big data analytics will allow marine operators to predict and infer logical allocation of slots while making the most use of available capacity and space and minimizing losses.   

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can offer the shipping and maritime sector a competitive edge and lead to effective vessel maintenance, voyage planning, and optimized business processes. AI-based predictions and diagnostics will allow the crew and shipmasters to monitor and predict their vessels’ movements, maneuvers, and positions, leading to real-time decision-making in ship management, situational awareness, and safety.   

Blockchain Technology: Enables secure transactions  

Transactions in the maritime sector rely heavily on paper documents such as bills of lading, sales agreements, customs clearance documents, letters of credit, etc. These documents pass through a chain of approvals and workflows and are prone to delays, fraud, and human errors.   

Blockchain technology can make the entire process paperless and tamper-proof. As a result, stakeholders can use private and public keys to communicate safely, transfer documents, carry out payments, and perform transactions fully transparently. Moreover, blockchain can mitigate the risk of internal fraud by eliminating central parties and enabling secure peer-to-peer communication through cryptography. This will provide better security for data transmission and storage and allow updating information in real-time.  

The Cyber Security Threat  

The global supply chain, terminals, and seaports are critically interlinked infrastructures and are most subject to cyberattacks. A cyber-attack on a single terminal can spread through the entire supply chain and impact many other players. The greater the number of connected devices, sensors, systems, and agents in the smart ports, the higher the cyber risks.   

Hence, maritime companies, terminals, and ports have started investing heavily in cybersecurity. Maritime players must conduct regular operating system updates, secure satellite connections and information sharing, invest in employee education programs, use stronger passwords, and conduct regular resilience exercises to prevent cyberattacks. 

Final words   

The digital transformation wave will undoubtedly take the maritime sector towards the port of quality and efficiency. Creating a holistic digital ecosystem with sophisticated digital tools, adaptable people, and automated processes will need technology and digital transformation service providers.   

Experion Technologies has in-depth domain expertise and experience in delivering Maritime digital solutions across various sector areas. Being a technology service provider, our experts have helped envision solutions for the Maritime world and helped customers solve problems and achieve their most important goals effectively.   

To learn more about our offerings and explore potential growth opportunities, get in touch with us at sales@experionglobal.com.   



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