Shipping is just beginning to reap some of the benefits in operational efficiency improvements, emissions and expenditure reductions, safer navigation and regulatory compliance that digitalisation has to offer.
Digital momentum is building within the industry along with a push to achieve greater levels of autonomy, full adoption of artificial intelligence, crewless ships, blockchain-controlled logistics and integrated ship-port operations.
With these dynamic forces set to shape the business of shipping for decades to come, Maritime Digitalisation & Communications has used our own analytics to predict the five biggest trends for the year ahead.
With just two years to go before IMO regulations mandate that shipowners provide cyber security measures on board their vessels under the ISM code, the growth in cyber secuity we saw in 2018 will only accelerate in 2019.
That said, adoption ahead of 1 January 2021 IMO deadline will be uneven. Some shipping companies will drag their feet and prolong the inevitable in spite of ever-present threats from ransomware, phishing or pharming, and hackers looking to extort information, payments or influence maritime operations.
To support wider implementation of cyber security measures, industry associations Bimco, Intertanko, Intercargo, OCIMF, the World Shipping Council and others collaborated to publish the third edition of the Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships in December 2018.
The guidelines offer advice on factoring in cyber risks within a ship’s safety management system, performing risk assessments for operational technology and identifying onboard cyber security threats arising from the external supply chain.
These and other topics will be covered during the 2019 European Maritime Cyber Risk Management Summit, scheduled for 25 June in London.
Less than six months ago, a survey report produced for Inmarsat highlighted that nearly a third of shipowners and managers considered themselves 'laggards' when it came to adopting internet of things (IoT) technology.
Researchers found 28% of respondents thought of themselves as laggards in IoT and another 32% considered themselves IoT 'starters', versus 35% who perceived themselves as 'leaders' and 5% 'progressives'.
IoT involves connecting onboard systems to shore for data analytics to reduce fuel consumption, improve regulation compliance and navigational safety and will be driven by faster connectivity. Once owners start reaping the operational and commercial benefits, implementation will accelerate and shipping companies will become leaders in IoT.
Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) will soon enable computers to predict the future course and manoeuvres of a vessel and display them to navigators and shore managers.
The technology will offer a form of virtual time travel for ship masters who will be able to monitor the future positioning of a vessel seconds or even minutes in advance, improving situational awarenes and decision-making and, ideally, creating safer outcomes.
AI-based predictive positioning systems are evolving from dynamic positioning (DP) technology by linking DP with advanced algorithms and machine learning tools. Trials got underway in 2018 to calibrate the precision of the predictive systems, and these will continue in 2019.
Initial developments in 2019 are likely to be focused on automatic docking for cruise ships, ferries and offshore support vessels using voyage assistance computers. The AI technology will get its start by calculating optimal manoeuvres set against specific criteria and requirements.
Down the line, these advances will become AI-driven navigation assistance for bridge teams and, eventually, onboard computers that will predict future positions, movements and manoeuvres hours in advance.
Using digital twin technology in design is another trend that has been on the rise. As one of many examples, engineering software company Aveva Engage includes 3D design models, machinery and plant engineering plans to offer condition-based analysis and greater insight into a ship’s systems during a ship's design phase.
2019 will see realignment of this focus towards developing 'dynamic' digital twin modelling, which will be used to enhance vessel maintenance and remove some of the human element in diagnosing problems onboard.
Software will use 3D models of ships not only during the design stage, but throughout a vessel’s lifecycle, automatically updating as systems are maintained, repaired and upgraded. Related programmes will predict maintenance requirements, manage drydocking schedules and help engineers visualise mechanical systems.
Software-enabled ship systems will allow maintenance of non-mechanical elements to be automated and managed through dynamic digital twins. 3D visualisation of whole ship systems will be pulled apart by engineers for training and used as a live diagnostic tool during maintenance. Maintenance requirements could then be redirected to robotic and automated systems to handle repairs.
2019 will be the year autonomous surface vessels will be demonstrated and trialled.
Last year, shipping regulators took the first steps towards understanding which rules need to be amended to enable safe, widespread use of autonomous surface-going vessels. Classification societies such as Lloyd’s Register and DNV GL developed guidance for autonomous vessel design and operations. IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and its working groups and sub-committees are set to review existing regulations and propose new amendments in 2019.
While this vital paperwork is being taken care of, Vard will build the first commercial autonomous ship for Yara with Kongsberg technology and DNV GL guidance. There will be more trials of autonomous ship models. And building projects on larger autonomous vessels for research, defence and survey are likely to get underway in 2019, too.
Remote controlled tugs will be trialled by at least three groups, one involving Svitzer and Rolls-Royce, another involving Kotug using a training tug, and a third by Purple Water, whose Giano tug is towing barges using a remote shore-based bridge operation.
It is from these remote control trials that autonomous ship technology will be further developed and delivered in usable formats for commercial shipping.
Bringing all this technology together will produce a highly technical and digitally sophisticated maritime industry that is more efficient, greener, leaner and better prepared for the digital future. Maritime Digitalisation & Communications will keep the industry updated with the latest technology developments and digital adoptions throughout 2019. Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest news.