Every aspect of shipping must be digitalised


By/Linton Nightingale

DIGITILISATION has dominated shipping discourse in recent months, and while it will certainly bring about change and drive the industry in a new direction, it will not occur overnight.

That was the message delivered by a panel of experts at the Lloyd’s List Oslo Business Briefing held on Monday afternoon. The panel were charged with “cutting through the digitalisation hype” and providing some much-needed clarity on this hot-button topic.

Stenna RoRo chief executive Per Westling said that to navigate this digital journey successfully, no stone could be left unturned; every aspect of the industry must become digitalised.

“And the bad news is that we have to do everything at the same time,” he said.

“We can’t not optimise the vessels, we can’t not leverage all the data and we can’t then not look at the fleet or the supply chain to generate information sharing.

“Change of this scale takes much longer than you’d expect, but it will be much bigger when it comes.”

V.Group technical director Andrea Zito was equally cautious of immediate change.

“When you cast your mind back to when automation came to the fore in the 1980s and 1990s everyone spoke of this revolution, in which machines would take over from humans,” he said.

“But of course even 30 years on we still have people on our vessels and manning our rigs.”

DNV GL maritime chief executive Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen admitted that there was a lot of fluff and hype surrounding the digital furore, but he said there was no denying its potential.

“The digital transformation is upon us and the question is, who is ready to ride the wave of big data and interconnectivity, cloud-based computing, and who is ready to disrupt and who will be disrupted?”

“Digital information about ships and their systems is becoming more accessible, data streams are growing exponentially, automated and integrated information flows will become cost threats and data will increasingly replace experience.”

Nevertheless, Mr Westling also said that despite this massive potential he was worried that some companies were taking too much notice of the digital strategies of their competitors.

“I am a little bit worried about companies fearing that everyone else is doing a lot and going off and making big investments,” he said.

“They might be a little bit rash when it comes to blockchain and other technologies that are important to the supply chain.

“But it is important we compete and collaborate together, as it is not always about having the best and shiniest technology to take us where we want to go.

“We have to try to navigate our way and find the right path and this will take time.”