The maritime industry is moving towards a new paradigm and owners can embrace change, writes Tore Morten Olsen, President of Maritime, Marlink.
Of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic, the accelerating effect it has applied to the deployment of new technologies must be the most significant. In addition to the apparent growth in video conferencing and e-commerce, interest in applications ranging from digital payments and telemedicine to process automation has piqued.
For the shipping industry, it catalyzed the use of new technologies and created two streams for future innovation. the willingness to take over remote processes in a sector where human intervention has priority; and the acceptance that employees can work from anywhere as if in the new normal.
Both streams are paradigm shifts that also give an insight into what the next stage of technological evolution could look like. smarter, more connected and more environmentally friendly, with value at the heart of the process.
The 2020s and beyond is the era of the “Five Rs”, remote technologies that can either be used now or become increasingly available in the next few years. With autonomous shipping waiting on any reasonable scale for a combination of regulatory green light, technology, social acceptance and a business model, this is not a direction most seafarers will be headed.
But there is no need to do nothing. Shipowners and managers can take advantage of the remote technologies already emerging and leverage the ability of employees to work from anywhere to create a new standard for clean, smart and efficient shipping.
The first of the five Rs reflects the opportunity that digitization offers Remote voyage support. Real life situations like bad weather and a possible diversion, answering a charterer’s request for fuel savings or solving a non-critical device anomaly that meant waiting for instructions. With long-distance travel support, bridge and shore teams can be connected to the same view of instruments, data and system health, often using the same collaborative software tools we use on shore.
Probably the greatest potential contribution is safety, so managers can know in real time whether the ship is deviating from its transit plan and at risk of being grounded or collided, and prompt the crew to take action.
The next R is Remote installation and support. This is the pandemic in a nutshell; A year in which you have never seen your IT engineer or maintenance contractor, but still managed to maintain the connectivity and essential devices and keep them compliant, receive training, feedback or even an assessment. The use of remote support and monitoring is the story of the marine industry’s commitment to IoT, cloud, and big data. So far it has been more steam than reality.
We are now seeing a very concerted move towards software installation, upgrades, health and performance monitoring, and automation of processes that previously had to be requested by the crew. The digitization of the management of such systems means control of the process and reliable, higher quality data flowing to the servers in the head office. In addition to software, several manufacturers are increasingly trying to use technologies such as augmented reality, video and live chat to support remote hardware installations.
The fourth R is another important feature made more visible by the pandemic and the longer periods of time the crew is expected to remain on board the ship. Digitization makes it possible Remote complianceby providing essential training that can bridge the gap between classroom programs.
The same connectivity enhancements enable remote health and equipment inspections with data from onboard systems that have been pre-collected and provided to surveyors to assist with virtual surveys via video with crew assistance. The more this is viewed as a mandatory process, the more efficient and potential the risk reduction.
Probably the lowest hanging fruit in the industry, it knows and understands the benefits of Telemedicine for a decade or more, but its adoption so far has been limited. It shares the same undeniable logic of other remote operations; Increase visibility, improve communication and enable decisions based on data.
Ship operators increasingly rely on high quality data throughout their operations and attach equal importance to the health of their seafarers. Better data means faster diagnosis and less confidence in the crew to make decisions. When the need for a detour is eliminated, a trip can remain profitable. An accurate diagnosis of COVID-19 or another condition can mean faster treatment.
The last of the five Rs is the direction the first four are facing. The concept of remote control relies on a simple premise; Don’t forego the captain, navigation and development teams, but remove them from the asset and let them work remotely to steer the ship from the shore.
This will of course not be practical for all ship types, sizes and businesses, but as the SeaOwl trials with an offshore support vessel have shown, this can be done in accordance with the class permits and requirements of the flag state and at the end of the to-end focus on cybersecurity is applied.
The five Rs share a technology thread, but each has its own value-add potential. It is said that the shipping industry prefers to follow rather than introduce new ideas, but these are ways that owners can now use digitization to improve efficiency and potentially save money.
They have a natural order based on changes in culture, acceptance, and regulation, but each has its foundations and some are already happening. The key to all of them is to learn the lesson the pandemic taught us. Accept technology but depend on people.