‘’Smart shipping is not a vision. It is not even a trend followed by few innovators. It is a reality.‘’
The maritime industry, following what other industries like air transport, power generation and chemical processing have been doing for decades now, is indeed actively entering the era of asset performance management and condition monitoring by employing digital technologies.
There are two key issues that arise as a result. The first is technology itself and the second is the operational and/or organizational changes that the application of technology brings along.
On the technology side, the Internet of Things (IoT) coupled with advanced digital technologies, like Cloud computing, and advanced telecommunications are the core ingredients that make the collection of numerous data from the vessel a less demanding task. The term big data is more and more becoming a reality in the shipping community. The real value, however, comes neither from the collection of big data, nor from its transport to the shore office. The real value comes from extracting meaning from data and it is this philosophy that our company has followed since the day it was founded.
Comparing measurements with simulation models, machine learning algorithms and data analytics techniques is what transforms, what we call, big data to smart data. This is when ship operators start receiving value from their investment and it is this layer of the process that they need to cherish the most.
However, technology, even though it usually attracts the biggest attention, is not the only issue. Another big challenge lies with the impact that technology and digitalization trends bring on the way ship operators actually work. The industry is requested to transform and align towards a new work culture. Many call it the digital transformation, others digital disruption, but in any case, this is now and will be for the next few years, the biggest challenge that the industry will face. As with any change management initiative, it affects individuals, teams, procedures and practices and organizations as a whole.
When we first started working with our customers, especially for their engine performance needs, we soon realised that the first benefit our products and services offered to them, was the change of culture and improvement of practices, both at the on-board crew and the shore office levels. The process of performance monitoring itself, in terms of compliance and quality of data input drastically improved. Numerous procedural misconducts and measurement issues were firstly identified and resolved. It was only when these were in place, that the real value of what digital technology brought in performance assessment, energy efficiency and fault diagnostics/prognostics, came to light.
If we take it further and look beyond the technical departments of ship operators, the same trends and challenges seem to apply. Operations, Chartering, even Crewing are progressively affected by digital disruption and again work practices are the first that are being impacted.
It is hard at this stage to assess the level and pace at which the industry will be fully digitalized, but if there is a prevailing question, it is rather the “when” and not the “if”. Despite the fact that skeptics are always placing challenges in the forefront, it is already becoming quite obvious that the opportunities arising are far more dominant. The benefits span across the entire food chain, from the cargo owners, the wellness and safety of the seafarers, the ship owner, all the way to the end consumer enjoying the product that has been transported via a ship route.
So, the dilemma “Smart shipping: Challenge or opportunity?” is actually not a real one. Smart shipping is undeniably a great opportunity ahead of us and the sooner we all embrace it, the better we serve our industry.
By Panos Theodossopoulos, Mechanical Engineer, PhD, CEO – Propulsion Analytics
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.
Panos Theodossopoulos is CEO at Propulsion Analytics. Propulsion Analytics, founded in 2014, is an innovative company offering products and services primarily focusing on ship engine performance monitoring, utilizing simulation models and machine learning techniques, for performance assessment, fault diagnosis and optimisation in service.