It will be a long journey for shipping companies to embark on their digital transformation, Robert Squire, Director Thales Certus, said at Posidonia 2018.
“The way the shipping industry is approaching digitization is very piecemeal and very reactive. They will only request solutions for specific issues they face at any particular point in time as opposed to approaching digital transformation in a more strategic, long-term approach,” Squire explained.
“Return on investment takes a long time to achieve so transformation needs to happen gradually in an intelligent way with a few quick wins to help you get there at some point in the future,” he added.
Digitalization, cyber technologies, autonomous mobility and artificial intelligence (AI) are the driving forces shaping tomorrow’s shipping industry. However, the pace of the adoption of new technologies in shipping is as slow as a tanker’s U-turn. Nonetheless, the consensus in the industry is that change is inevitable and that regulatory and competition forces will be the catalysts for companies to adjust to the new realities.
“It’s a survival issue; whoever does not adopt new digital technologies in the coming years will be left on the sidelines,” Mike Konstantinidis, CEO, Metis Cybertechnology, a Greek company established just 15 months ago to ride on the tide of the impending digitization, said.
“The shipping sector is behind other industries in the adoption of innovative technological solutions and only recently the industry has seen a change with more companies requesting information and expressing interest in cyber technology solutions to help them reduce costs and the complexity coming from the increasing demand for the adoption of the new regulations, as well as to improve crew efficiencies and productivity,” Konstantinidis continued.
Konstantinidis is upbeat that demand for digital transformation products and services will increase exponentially over the coming years as AI and machine learning solutions herald a new era in performance management in shipping.
And as more and more shipping companies and fleets adopt digital technologies, other challenges will surface according to Thales.
“Cybersecurity was much of a buzzword for a long time but it now has started to hit home as there are a lot of weak links out there and the more you connect your ships the more opportunities you create for people to hack you like modern pirates,” Squire noted.
But the benefits of digitalization outweigh any potential threats.
“Shipping is an industry which relies upon connections between people and for information to be transported in accurate and timely manner, so if we can do that, it means that the industry will become better. Digitalization will help shipping improve both in terms of security but also in terms of operations,” Squire pointed out.
“The enablers are there today to create the industry change, so now it’s the case of the industry to make that investment but it needs to be done in a measured and gradual way,” he concluded.