Currently, as Allianz's Safety and Shipping Review say, sensors are mostly used to perform monitoring and predictive maintenance; however the technology can also be used to improve risk management.

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Namely, hull stress monitoring sensors could help navigate safely in heavy weather and provide information on structural integrity to officers in real-time. In fact, Rolls-Royce has developed a situational awareness system that uses multiple sensors with intelligent software that helps captains navigate at night, in adverse weather conditions or in congested waterways.

Nevertheless, the above are not far from becoming a reality. Specifically, a number of today's ships contain sensors that measure and monitor a wide range of parameters such as weather and sea conditions, hull stress monitors, cargo hold temperature and humidity, as well as machinery health and performance indicators.

Sensors can also be used for supply chain management, tracking and monitoring valuable or sensitive cargo. Such technology can easily be combined with other developments, such as blockchain, smart contracts and artificial intelligence.

This can provide long-needed solutions. For example, if a high-value shipment is delayed or damaged, cargo sensor data can help companies avoid losses. Thus, the industry will be able to understand why such problems took place, establishing better measures to safeguard cargoes.

Maersk is trying to benefit from this as it is developing a logistics blockchain system to digitally track cargo and share information with supply chain partners. IBM and Maersk are forming a joint venture to use blockchain technology to make global trade more efficient, transparent and secure. The aim of the new company will be to offer a jointly developed global trade digitization platform built on open standards and designed for use by the entire global shipping ecosystem.

Addressing the potential of sensors in the shipping industry, Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting at AGCS, stated:

Container tracking today focuses on high value or sensitive cargo, but in the future it will be common place for all containers. It is of huge benefit to shippers, improving efficiency and helping to understand issues in the supply chain. But cargo tracking can also be used as a risk management tool, enabling companies to take action if cargo is damaged or goes off route.