Q: Given the heated debate on shipping technological disruption, do you think this is a technology push or a market pull and why?


Frances Baskerville, Secretary General, CIRM

CIRM members are at the forefront of technical development in the maritime industry, particularly within the confines of the ship bridge.  Maritime applications and technology develop at a rate the market dictates, particularly right now when there is a need to secure data and ensure reliability of systems. 

We need to keep people and cargoes safe at sea so why freeze at the word ‘Innovation’? Is it because we feel our familiar world might be uncomfortably disrupted by new technology that we don’t understand?   Perhaps we should concentrate on enhancement, efficiency, new processes, cleaner thinking and accelerate progress towards a better workplace.  We need to be more creative in our outlook and get behind the developers and steadily embrace change.

Frank Coles, CEO, Transas

No doubt the noise or push is from the technology providers, but the need comes from the market pull.  Obviously the technology providers want to sell and distinguish themselves.  The owners and managers, know they need to change for efficiency, safety and a greener solution, hence the pull, but the confusion comes in the how and what. Forget unmanned ships for now, focus on automated decision processes, with human oversight. Introduce automated electronic systems reporting, while allowing human override.  Bring the human training and competence to the level required of a high reliability organisation, (like an airline, or nuclear power station) and watch the safety, efficiency and green footprint grow.

Giampiero Soncini, Senior Advisor, Marine Innovation, RINA

It is both. Technology push is unavoidable because shipping activities today requests perfect compliance to safety, complete adherence to stringent rules and regulations, strong attention to staff needs and environmental issues.

Market pull is unavoidable because the shipping world is capital intensive, difficult and exposed to risks, while charterers, insurers and investors are more and more risk averse, request perfect performances, better economic results, faster decisions and even faster actions. All of this, in a period of high completion, high costs and lower margins.

This conundrum situation can be solved only by applying technology in order to balance every operational action with the appropriate economic result.

Fritz Heidenreich, President, 88 LLC

I believe it is a technology push but a meager attempt at best.  Shipping is a fragmented market with low volume transactions.  The average ship only does 15-20 voyages per year.  There isn’t the volume of transactions needed to make technological disruptions market driven.  I would exclude containers from that statement; the news that Maersk and IBM are working on a blockchain platform is definitely a market driven disruption. For the rest of the industry, it is technology that is pushing change and I think that is why we have seen so many failed attempts at disruption throughout the years.  LevelSeas.com was 15 years ago and yet no one else has succeeded to disrupt the market the way they tried.


Panos Theodossopoulos, CEO, Propulsion Analytics

Technology push and market pull always go hand in hand. Any new technological disruption is typically triggering an initial wave, which grows to gradually cover the industry it addresses. This wave is rather “silent” in the beginning, then slowly picks up and eventually accelerates to spread broadly amongst the relevant stakeholders. This evolution is usually termed technology adoption lifecycle.

In the case of shipping, I believe that the technological disruptions brought by the latest wave of the so-called Industry 4.0, are past the initial phase of capturing the technology enthusiasts and are now touching the so-called early adopters. It is certain that the adoption will grow. The rate will also be influenced by industry practices and the regulatory framework.

Philip Chaabane, CEO, ITech AB

I believe technological disruption in shipping is being driven by market pull. This is particularly true in the field of antifouling coatings development. The break through of our active ingredient, Selektope®, is primarily fueled by the demand from ship owners and shipyards in response to intensifying global biofouling issues, causing fuel losses and additional maintenance costs. Although the marine coatings containing our product, Selektope®, provides a strong investment case, the industry up take is also supported by regulatory restrictions on e.g, emissions to air and transportion of aquatic invasive species (on a fouled hull). In the case of Selektope®, I must admit, it initially had elements of a technology push provided its unique bio-repellant properties driving global interest and belief in its performance. 

Daniel Shirley, Product Marketing Manager, MarineTraffic

Technological disruption is driven by market pull. However, the shipping industry has traditionally been resistant to change, which made some sense while freight rates were high. Lately, the global financial crisis, and the resulting decrease in profit margins have amplified the need for change, giving it a sense of urgency. Luckily, the tech innovation boom in other industries offers a wealth of insights and solutions that can now be applied to shipping.

 Of course, good ideas only make sense if people embrace and adopt them. This is the challenge for technology providers; to clearly understand market needs and to provide fitting solutions, making the market pull more intentional. That’s why it is so important to have close cooperation between solution providers and the industry, as well as cooperation within the industry. Greater cooperation will lead to accelerated adoption of disruptive and enabling technologies. Cooperation will be the new disruption in shipping.

Raal Harris, Creative Content Director, KVH Videotel

I spent the first five years of my maritime career trying to convince people to adopt digital technology and the last five trying to keep up with their appetite for it.  The seismic change has happened in the last three years, in that time a new generation of management has stepped into key positions across the Industry. These decision makers have seen the positive impact of smart interconnected technology in the wider world and see no reason to let tradition stand in the way of implementing it in maritime. This, coinciding with an upswing in real time connectivity onboard ship and an emerging generation of digital native seafarers, has begun a transformation that I think is now unstoppable.