With the COVID-19 pandemic finally freeing the world from its dark claws, the shipping industry is all set to focus on new improvements and developments.
Keeping up with the digital transformation has become almost imperative for several years, leaving companies in different sectors and industries no choice but to adapt to the changes. Maritime technology, in particular, has witnessed some breakthrough innovations that created a ripple effect in the supply chain.
Now more than ever, it has become commonplace in the maritime industry to implement digital collaboration and communication tools and use digital platforms for cargo and ship tracking. However, more innovative and revolutionary solutions offered exciting opportunities in different areas and sectors. They aim to make modern shipping safer, faster, greener, and more efficient.
Here are some of the predictions from industry experts on the future of maritime technology:
3D printing is a state-of-the-art technology that transforms digital designs into actual physical objects. The maritime industry uses this process to meet on-demand equipment and spare parts orders directly onboard ships.
The technology reduces unnecessary long-distance transport of spare parts, speeds up maintenance and repairs, and prevents expensive interruptions in operations and vessel immobilization.
Aside from these, 3D printing technology also has the potential to allow the production of more complex parts that would have been difficult or even impossible to create with the use of traditional manufacturing methods.
Analytics and Big Data
The supply chains produce vast amounts of accumulated and analyzed data to evaluate and enhance processes and usages. This is done by creating patterns, identifying trends, and making well-founded decisions.
The tasks below, for example, can take advantage of data-driven insights:
- Forecast demands
- Determine innovative methods to generate extra revenue and gain efficiency
- Lower risks of accidents and costs
- Optimize shipping companies’ sailing routes to lower fuel consumption and reduce footprint through improving recycling, minimizing waste and emissions, and the like
Advanced Monitoring System
The maritime industry uses advanced monitoring systems designed for real-time regular monitoring of the environment, including weather patterns, water, air quality, and vessel traffic.
The systems use a blend of satellite imagery, sensors, and other forms of technology to gather and assess data regarding the ocean and its surrounding environment.
The systems’ collected data are then used to create ocean models and detailed maps and to send alerts to authorities and ship operations about emergencies and potential environmental hazards.
The data can then help protect marine ecosystems and prevent pollution. At the same time, it also lowers the costs of cleanup efforts if ever an environmental disaster occurs.
Augmented and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is currently considered an indispensable tool if you want to thrive and survive in this era filled with digital services.
AI-based modules currently help maritime industry professionals calculate ETA for vessels across the globe, evaluate underwater noise, monitor water or air quality, and more.
AI is also critical to shift to intelligent ports with blockchain technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and 5G connections. The ports of Hamburg, Havre, Los Angeles, Quebec, Rotterdam, Singapore, and Shanghai, to mention a few, show and prove how this technology makes digital transformation a reality to allow sustainability, transparency, and efficiency.
Automation and Robotics
Robotic technology offers the potential to save humans from physically demanding, monotonous, heavy, or hazardous work. Automated cargo handling systems in port terminals contribute to efficient and fast operations, reduce emissions, reduce waiting times at the quay for ships or anchors, and lower human error risk.
Autonomous cranes, for instance, are being deployed in all major US ports, Canada, Australia, Europe, Asia, and more. The robotics technology development also aims to solve shortages in labor and enhance overall productivity compared to manual operations.
Autonomous ships are expected to modernize the industry of ocean transportation. With a wide range of technologies, such as advanced algorithms, cameras, and sensors, these vessels can navigate and operate sans human intervention.
Aside from cost savings, these autonomous ships can also provide the following:
- Enhanced safety thanks to their ability to identify and prevent collisions
- Optimized routing and scheduling that results in faster and more consistent delivery times
- Lower fuel consumption
The maritime industry increasingly uses blockchain technology to improve efficiency, visibility, transparency, and security across various domains, including cargo tracking, vessel registration, and supply chain management. Blockchain’s core concept includes a decentralized digital ledger that offers a transparent and secure means of recording transactions.
The distributed architecture of blockchain, for instance, creates an absolute record of the movements of a ship to help enhance safety and prevent fraud. In addition, using smart contracts in place of paperwork on the blockchain platform can also help automate different processes to save costs and reduce delays.
With the maritime industry’s growing demands for sustainability, there is an increasing focus on alternative fuel options. These include ammonia, hydrogen, biofuels, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) that help lower the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels and the vessels’ carbon footprint.
In addition, technological solutions are also being explored that aim to enhance energy efficiency onboard vessels, such as lighting and other appliances, and in machinery, including propulsion systems.
Since January 2023, the shipping sector has been going through a dramatic regulatory change with the launch of the EEXI or Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index measurement. The EEXI will be obligatory for all ships as part of the annual assessment of their CII or carbon intensity indicator. The goal of both is to promote more energy-efficient and sustainable practices.
Similarly, developing hull coatings, using ecological materials, and advancing ship design can all help lower pollutant emissions and fuel consumption. These can contribute to the maritime industry’s greener future and a healthier and safer planet for everyone.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The connected sensors installed on advanced navigation systems, vessels, trucks, or other types of equipment transmit different data, including functions, speed, and location, through dedicated software at a predefined frequency or continuously. Combined with satellite observation and GPS, the information is used to plan operations at the next port of call and to track shipments.
IoT is also vital in predictive maintenance with real-time and historical data and an alert system to inform the concerned teams whenever an anomaly occurs. It prevents time-consuming repairs and lowers response times.
Renewable Marine Energy
Renewable marine energies are also critical in the change toward sustainable practices. While some are still under development, several energy breakthroughs have resulted in emission-free power sources that help reduce dependability on diesel generators and carbon dioxide emissions. These include wind turbines, solar panels, tidal and power wave generators, and hydrogen fuel cells.
SaaS and Cloud
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, working mobile has become the new norm. All business information and applications should be accessible anywhere and anytime on connected devices using cloud-based computing systems. It enhances responsiveness, effectiveness, and flexibility.
Data sharing also ensures smooth operations, communication, and truck or vessel fleet management among remote sites and between shore-based teams and sailing vessels—using the same information level results in relevant and quick decision-making.