Shipping industry steers towards digitalisation

Faster, smarter, better connected: In the age of digitalisation the shipping sector is reinventing itself. The SMM motto “Driving The Maritime Transition” reflects this paradigm shift. Featuring innovative exhibitors and top-ranking discussion panels, the leading international maritime trade fair will provide key impetus for the technology transition.

It is just one project out of many: Named “B Zero”, it involves Fraunhofer Institute and several partners, among them Wärtsilä, Hoppe Bordmesstechnik, NautilusLog and Bernhard Schulte Group. Its goal is to develop a sensor-assisted navigation system for autonomous control of merchant vessels. The project, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs, aims to enable ships to navigate autonomously between predefined departure and arrival points. This would eliminate the need for permanent presence of crew on the bridge. Smart shipping, data-based logistics, artificial intelligence: “The Digital Transition is a key driver of the transformation of the maritime sector," says Claus Ulrich Selbach, Business Unit Director – Maritime and Technology Fairs & Exhibitions at Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH. Digitalisation is one of the main topics on the agenda of the leading international maritime trade fair, which has been given the motto “SMM 2020 – Driving The Maritime Transition".

Developing solutions collaboratively
The shipping industry has accepted the challenge. For example, the leading shipping company Maersk has joined forces with IT experts from IBM to create TradeLens, an open-standard blockchain platform for global trade and supply chains. More than 90 organisations have joined already, including port and customs authorities, liner operators and cargo owners. "Our industry must develop new technology and software solutions in open, innovative communities," says Søren Skou, CEO of A.P. Møller Maersk. “We need to digitize from the inside of our business, but at the same time, finding the best solutions will require our industry to partner with companies across a wide range of industries.” SMM 2020 is an ideal forum for this kind of collaboration where decision-makers representing all major industry players will be present and exhibitors from around the world will showcase their innovations. “Digitalisation is tearing down walls, changing business models, and it's happening rapidly," says Hege Skyseth, president of Kongsberg Digital. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, automation and robotics will lead to significant changes for the industry, she adds. Kongsberg is one of the partners in the “Yara Birkeland” project, an electrically-propelled containership that will eventually be commuting entirely autonomously to transport fertiliser between two Norwegian ports. While these may be humble beginnings, the example shows how autonomous shipping is rising to the next level. According to the current SMM Maritime Industry Report (MIR), nearly one third of respondents expect unmanned ships to become a reality within two decades.  

Smart data use
Classification societies have an important role to play in the digital transformation of the shipping sector. For example, the Norwegian class DNV GL has developed a platform called Veracity to facilitate collaboration between industry stakeholders, technical experts and data analysts. Soon the solutions of the weather data specialist StormGeo will be integrated into Veracity. “Leading companies are exploring ways to leverage new technologies to improve the safety and productivity of their assets,” says DNV GL – Maritime CEO Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen. Ensuring smooth communication and efficient transfer of large amounts of data takes innovative products for satellite-based networks such as those sold by Inmarsat or Thuraya who will be presenting their systems at SMM. When sharing sensitive data, data integrity and security are of great concern. Lloyd’s Register issues its ShipRight Safe AL2 certificate to confirm the fitness for purpose of corporate cybersecurity systems.

Pursuing new opportunities
A technology that exemplifies how digitalisation revolutionises manufacturing is 3D printing. "We believe that on-demand production technology will turn the maritime supply chain upside down," says Hakon Ellekjaer, Head of Venture 3D Printing at Wilhelmsen Marine Products. SMM will make sure these developments will not go unnoticed: The 3D printing area in Hall A2 where visitors can see the fascinating capabilities of additive manufacturing in action will be twice as large as at the last SMM. One of the companies that will be featured there is the Australian Spee3D whose innovative Spee3Dcell system uses ultrasonic metal cold spray technology to 3D print metal parts 100 to 1000 times faster than other processes.

The digital product portfolio at SMM will be supplemented by an industry conference: At the Maritime Future Summit (MFS), traditionally held on the eve of SMM's opening day, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be high on the agenda. An expert panel chaired by Professor Volker Bertram (World Maritime University) will discuss how self-learning systems may influence ship operations, ship design and shipbuilding in future. For further information on the MFS conference programme go here.

“It is our ambition to present a comprehensive spectrum of digitalisation topics for the maritime sector at SMM," says HMC Business Unit Director Selbach. To help visitors find their way, the "Digital Route” will guide them to companies with a focus on digital technologies. 

About SMM
SMM, the leading international maritime trade fair, takes place at the Hamburg Messe und Congress exhibition complex every two years. From 8 to 11 September 2020 more than 2,200 exhibitors and roughly 50,000 visitors are expected to come to the famous port city. Covering more than 90,000 square metres of exhibition floor, SMM reflects the entire value chain of the maritime industry. Decision-makers, experts and multipliers from all parts of the world will gather at the exhibition, making SMM the foremost innovation platform of the maritime sector.

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