A driver’s assist car is reaching a parking place. While another familiar driver is looking at his phone, realizing that the battery Is low, searching in the car and in the bag, pulling out the laptop or the charger, fussing around so they get the phone charging.

All this time, their driving 50 miles per hour down the freeway.

It is the smartphone in our pocket. Used to find the quickest route to our destination, to pay our bills, to count down how many steps were made in the day and get fitness tips. To upload music and video in the cloud, to shop online, arrange vacations or business trips, to make a few old-fashioned phone calls, to connect with other devices or medical platforms for doctor appointments and diagnosis.

A doctor appointment may be awkward, but how about having the doctor supervise the robot doing the job?

In 2019, we all experience businesses that once felt disconnected fitting together seamlessly, unleashing surprising synergies.

A single application offers in minutes what used to take many weeks and multiple providers.

Digitalisation is not a product, it is a systemic change. Nowadays, technology is available and affordable, enabling us to re-invent the entire business process based on a specific company’s profile and preferences.

Innovative solutions and artificial intelligence applications aim at increasing productivity, sustainability and a lower cost of operation.

Competing in a world of sectors without borders, platforms allow digital players to move easily across industry and sectors, a radical re-ordering of traditional industry boundaries, redefines how traditional companies need to respond.

We witness a model change.

Form companies described as machines to corporations as living organisms. Both stable and dynamic at the same time.

A change of mindset to recognize the abundance of opportunity and resources available to us to succeed by co-creating value with or for all stakeholders.

Agile organizations reimagine both. Who they create value for and how they do so?

They create active partnerships and an ecosystem that blends internal network with a number of external meaningful relationships, so to meet changing customer and competitive conditions.

Customers help to create products through innovation, direct input from net users and nearly real time adjustments develop products and services.

This is already taking place from Legos to aircraft engines.

Globalization, urbanization and focus on energy efficiency change the cargo logistics.

Studies report billion euros spent annually in containers logistics due to inefficiencies in the chain. Global logistics has sealed all operations, car and solution focus on individual companies, ships and ports missing the advantage of connectivity.

Over the next five years, digitalization and automation, flexible combination of people and digital devices supported by business processes and technology and environment can completely transform the industry.

The entire thread must work seamlessly together to improve efficiency, safety and optimize cargo flows and load handling.

The transformation journey for the merchant shipping and offshore industries is well under way.

To respond to the increasing and demanding financial, technical and regulatory challenges, the demand for more efficient and predictable operations, human factor limitations, weak, safe culture, complacency of short terms.

New trends and technology in maritime industry bring up numerous opportunities and a number of issues to tackle, such as security, quality, adoption pace, ownership and the trackability of data, skills and competences development, new rules and regulations and even liability questions.

Setbacks and challenges are inevitable.

On a wider perspective, this technological transformation goes hand in hand with the revolution in thinking a whole new set of skills and a change of mindset.

It is true, not all answers may be available today. And yes, the real world and especially operations at sea can not be completely standardized.

But, we can not afford to waste resources. Our future does have the potential to be literally smarter.

In 2019, we witness:

  • Increased number and complexity of system onboard vessels.
  • Issues in availability of training personnel.
  • Trials of autonomous vessels in the Baltic sea.
  • Drones in service of shipping.
  • Ambitious autonomous systems promise safety, environmental and operational benefits.

If cargo operations are challenging, how about trading and discharging at -20 degrees in ports having daily twenty hours night for about half of the year.

The competence, availability and skills of personnel assigned at work, deficiencies and problems that distract the operator.

Optimized cargo handling processes? Enhance safety and efficiency?

How about smarter independent cargo operations?

Pushing the boundaries of performance excellence, working on an actual business case, Macgregor is on the way to test and show cast unique self-learning cranes onboard commercial vessels, introduce, the world’s first autonomous discharging cranes.

Developed as part of a joint project between Macgregor and ESL shipping, the cranes are to be tested, unloading features which are fitted on two new LNG powered handy sized bulk carriers, Viikki and Haaga.

These vessels are equipped with three specially developed electro hydraulic K-series cranes with a safe working load of 30 tonnes with a grab and an outreach of 30mtr.

These two vessels, as the majority of ESL shipping, will serve in the Baltic region in a demanding trade with a high number of voyages and high number of crane operations per year.

In this project, the expertise of forward thinking, shipowner and operator is combined with Macgregor’s knowledge in intelligent cargo handling in order to develop safer and more efficient solutions for unloading bulk cargoes, reduce unnecessary waste in the value chain, extend the service life of the cranes and improve the working conditions in ports.

These operations will be monitored and controlled from the bridge or anywhere else where the system operator can have a view of the crane condition and operational control screen.

This will eliminate the need for personnel in hazardous operational areas.

The system operator will define the discharging points and select from the menu the material audit of each hold. Either from the crane or from the bridge driver remote control system.

After that, the system is initialized, and autonomous discharging operations can begin.

For safety reasons operations will start only when the working area is empty and sealed off.

Optimal unloading is ensured by analysis of the material distribution in the hold using advanced censored technology.

A map above each cargo hold is created by cranes topographic module. This way optimal lifting points are defined, adding further to the cranes’ efficiency.

The grab is controlled by an intelligent self-learning algorithm that automatically adjusts to ensure that the bucket is filled to an optimum level and not overloaded.

When the material properties change the auto grip module will re adjust the parameters.

Each crane recalculates suggested routes using Macgregor’s commanded technology to optimize paths, ensure pendulum free motion and minimize the total discharging time.

The system also calculates which hopper to use, depending on hopper capacity.

Speed and crane movement are continuously monitored to ensure cargo is moved without causing pendulation.

However, if this does occur, it will automatically be corrected by the cranes and de-pendulation system.

Any change in vessels’ list during operations will be compensated by a numerous censor in order to ensure that a stable discharging point Is continuously maintained.

The communication module of the crane is the backbone of the system, sharing information, such as carrier and the upcoming positions and other important parameters.

The bridge driver remote control system practically replicates a crane drivers’ desk and can be located either on the ships bridge or anywhere else where the system operator can have a view of the crane position and the topographic cargo map.

In addition to supervising and monitoring the autonomous discharging the system operator will have the ability to remotely control each crane via monitors.

A number of steps is to follow for the future, such as

  • Loading of bulk material from a pile
  • Autonomous loading/unloading of containers
  • Remote operation of cranes from port

In the future our autonomous cranes will be the link that connects the vessel to the automated terminal.


Above text is an edited version of Mrs Athena’s Kanellatou & Mr Stefanos Spiriounis’ presentation during the 2019 SMART4SEA Conference.

You may view their presentation herebelow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

About Athena Kanellatou, Regional Director Mediterranean, Macgregor

Athena Kanellatou is engaged over two decades in international shipping serving the vision of sustainable operations at sea and cargo flows for a better every day. She started her career in the MacGregor Group, holding a number of key positions in the Greek entity being CFO, Business Controller, Managing Director and Global Life Cycle Support Sales Manager. Athena studied Business Management, specialized in Economics, Business Analysis, Controlling and Internal Auditing and  furthered her education in Sales Strategy and in Marine Engineering Management.

During her association with MacGregor Group, A. Kanellatou is actively involved in different company workgroups in Merchant Marine division and other managerial projects focusing on Greek shipping community. In 2018, she is nominated as MacGregor Director of Mediterranean Region being responsible for the operations of seven company branches active in Merchant shipping and Offshore business. MacGregor is world leading provider of engineering solutions and services for handling marine cargoes and offshore loads, member of Cargotec Group stock listed in Helsinki.

About Stefanos Spiriounis, Sales Engineer, Global Lifeycle Support, Macgregor

With 15 years as a Sales Engineer in the marine and other industrial sectors, jointed MacGregor in 2013 in the position of Sales Engineer and specialized in Cranes Technical Support.  During his association with MacGregor, he has participated in various technical seminars within the company, enhancing his knowledge on the field.