Up for the challenge – where next for digitalisation in shipping?
26 10 2017

The autumn, the Digital Ship Rotterdam CIO conferencewas well attended by around 130 participants for a day’s packed agenda that addressed the pros and cons of digitalisation in shipping, developing themes emerging from previous CIO forums including satcomms and connectivity; the potential of blockchain technology for shipping; exploiting digitalisation; big data and IoT; and cyber security.

A wide range of expert speakers shared their thoughts with fellow professional delegates, stimulating debate that resulted in some cracking ideas during eight round table groups in the afternoon.

Overall, the sense is of an ever-maturing, steadily consolidating sector view that digitalisation is probably the game changing solution for improving the efficiency of shipping operations, their interface with ports and their contribution to the global logistics network.

Connectivity is of course simultaneously the blocker and the enabler. The conversation has evolved over the past five years from concern about the cost and adequacy of satellite communications to a growing realisation that satellite service providers have understood end user needs, modified their systems and hardware accordingly, and reviewed products and services such that affordable, ubiquitous 1mb data connectivity services are a realistic prospect in the near term.

Admittedly, such connectivity is not yet the equivalent of terrestrial services (and terrestrial will be difficult to match for the foreseeable future) but it’s undoubtedly a vast improvement on past performance, clearly paving the way to digitalisation in shipping operations.

These improved services to all intents and purposes resolve crew needs (the original primary driver of satellite connectivity for shipping), ensuring regular contact with home and family whilst deployed for long periods, such that owners and operators are now pondering the benefits of additional connectivity, what operational efficiencies could result from better digital business tools, more efficient information exchange, shared datasets and so on.

That said, shipping markets are still under the cosh, margins are as tight as ever and excess tonnage prevails so companies remain reluctant to invest. The challenge is therefore to prove that digitalisation will streamline operations, reduce overheads and improve margins (and every little bit will help); DS Rotterdam delegates were very much up for the challenge.  Great venue, great speakers, great participation, great event! A great job, well done by the Digital Ship team!

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