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Marine Electronics & Communications

Marine Electronics & Communications

Forward Thinking: Transas’ Frank Coles

Fri 10 Mar 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Forward Thinking: Transas’ Frank Coles
Frank Coles: “Ship traffic control and e-navigation will become critical to ensure efficient and safe operations ”

In the latest in our forward thinking series, Transas chief executive Frank Coles explains why shipping faces a perfect storm of technology that is forever changing.

E-navigation and e-commerce will transform shipping

Shipping is facing a perfect storm of new technology, e-commerce and e-navigation that will transform the industry. Transas chief executive Frank Coles says that new models of shipping business will be developed as smart shipping technologies are adopted. He also expects more developments in e-navigation and ship traffic control systems.

“The perfect storm is the one confronting the maritime industry,” said Mr Coles. “It is one which will disrupt all elements of the shipping industry. It is technology-driven and in some cases is also self-inflicted.”

He explained that new players in the shipping industry are using e-commerce to disrupt the sector, while digitisation of shipping is changing the way the industry operates. “Clearly the line between the logistics, e-commerce companies and the shipper is beginning to blur.”

Mr Coles added: “Digitalisation leads to commoditisation and disruption. The ripples of this change might be felt across today’s ecosystem.” He included in that ecosystem the insurance market, the charter market, cargo booking, port operations, ship design, logistics, navigation, communications, shipyards, and owning and managing ships.

“The changing model of shipping cargo and logistics will change the shipowning and operating model, and that will create the smart maritime operations, which also need scale in order to be more efficient.”

Transas has reacted to these changes by developing the Transas Harmonised Eco System of Integrated Solutions (Thesis). This is a platform with shared data services, decision support tools and applications to enable the digital maritime industry to operate. “In this respect we see the navigation sensors, along with ecdis, as the brain that is employed both to operate and to monitor the ship's operation,” said Mr Coles.

He added: “Ship traffic control and e-navigation will become critical to ensure efficient and safe operations in the maritime segment of the shipping market.” Whether there are manned ships or automated ships, smart ships and smart operations, there will be increased digitalisation, improvements in decision support, better monitoring and a scaling up of shipmanagement operations. “Just like the e-commerce giants the drivers will be on-time delivery, efficiency and cost savings.”

Mr Coles said the development of data analytics and service centres has been too fragmented for shipping to gain all of the benefits. “I think there will be an emerging requirement for larger shared service centres in shipmanagement operations. If we are to create a safe environment, one that reduces accidents and incidents and manages manned or unmanned ships, we need a global monitoring service.” He would like to see the development of ship traffic control as an overarching role, monitoring vessel activity for the safety, security and efficiency of the ecosystem.

“We also have to consider the human dimension, both the crew on board and those working ashore.” For this, Transas has made progress with its Transas Academy to offer training, competence skills and support for the industry's human factor requirements.

On the bridge, Mr Coles expects that business will be about more than simply supplying an ecdis. “We have shifted to supplying the decision support infrastructure tools to enable the smart operations of the maritime section of the shipping industry.” He expects shipowners, vendors, equipment suppliers, service providers, agents and repair companies to face major challenges in the digital environment. “The largely untouched maritime segment of the supply chain is now changing, and that change is going to accelerate as more innovative players come in and challenge the status quo.”

He concluded: “The perfect storm is developing as the e-commerce players encroach, while technology impacts the way of doing business and the middle man is removed by the digitalisation, creating commodity driven efficiency and a new world for maritime. Smart operations is the result not the reason.”

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