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Shipping digitalization: increasing efficiency and sustainability

Published July 30, 2022

For many years now, digitalization has been one of the most significant components of company development in various fields. The shipping industry is no exception. In this area, digital transformation is an important and big step towards improving the quality of transportation and the operation of sea and inland ports. Reliable IT solutions help cut material costs, ensure smooth operation and a high level of safety during operation of vessels, and reduce the negative impact on the environment.

The governments of many countries see great potential in the shipping industry and are actively introducing measures to support it. Great improvements are impossible without implementing digital solutions. Modern technologies make it possible to reduce fuel consumption, ensure personnel safety, control vessel traffic and minimize accident risks. The potential of smart systems is limitless — not only do they enable all maritime transport market participants to improve efficiency and speed, but also contribute to solving global challenges that the industry faces today. That’s why introducing advanced tech solutions is the task of the highest priority, where the efforts of the state, public corporations and private companies are focused.

Here's a look at how exactly digital solutions are driving maritime transport.

Areas of application of IT solutions in the shipping industry

Anomaly detection and route prediction

Machine learning (ML)-based analytics platforms collect data from hundreds of watercrafts. Based on this information, they are capable of performing nonlinear analysis, build an accurate real-time trajectory of vessels, as well as identify deviations from the assigned path and determine their causes. It allows specialists to quickly assess the current situation and predict the most optimal route. Application of ML technologies contributes to logistics optimization as well as minimization of risk of accidents and shipwrecks.

Monitoring the condition of equipment and employee safety

IoT systems enable collecting and analyzing data from objects located on ships and in ports. With the help of the information received, specialists determine the exact location of the equipment and its technical condition. In case of malfunction, the system automatically notifies them to fix the failure. In addition, IoT devices are used to ensure personnel safety. Sensors connected to the network identify hazardous areas, monitor the movement of objects, track the environment, and analyze incidents. This helps prevent accidents, among other things.

Interactive sensor data collection also lies at the heart of Digital Twins, which are dynamic models of a system of physical objects and processes represented in a digital form. In shipping, this technology makes it possible to control all important processes on ships and in ports. Having access to data and graphs with visualized information, specialists can detect a problem and eliminate it in a short term. Digital twin technology is actively developing and is used particularly to build ship remote control systems.

Energy management

Intelligent platforms can be used for online monitoring of energy consumption on ships as well as on port infrastructure objects: administrative and production facilities, warehouses, etc. Engineering systems such as air coolers and uninterruptible power supplies are controlled remotely.

Energy consumption can be monitored according to time intervals and operation modes, and weaknesses can be identified through regular comparative analysis of similar facilities and models. The data collected is used to provide the basis for decision making, including upgrading or replacing equipment. Today, given the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) strategy, which calls for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by 2050, such systems are becoming particularly relevant. Switching to alternative fuels (e.g. hydrogen, ammonia) and using similar solutions will help the industry achieve carbon neutrality.

Blockchain-based smart logistics

A smart contract is an electronic protocol that ensures strict adherence to obligations throughout the transaction. Such an algorithm is stored on a blockchain platform, therefore data moves in a secure environment. In the shipping industry, smart contracts between parties involved — shipowners, charterers, cargo owners, forwarders, stevedoring companies, ship agents and others — are used to control the shipping process and ensure cargo security. For example, access to a container, which is protected by an electronic lock, can only be obtained by someone who is included in the digital contract. It records penalties for delays, transportation violations and damage. Smart contracts also make it possible to monitor parameters of delivery conditions: temperature, humidity, vibrations, etc. In this way, blockchain-based technologies help logistics companies ensure a high level of transparency and security in their supply chains.

Processing incoming requests with AI

AI-powered solutions are able to classify, organize and prioritize the content of incoming messages. This contributes to fast and efficient processing of requests for logistics services, repair and also maintenance requests for maritime transport and port facilities. For example, the system of sorting online requests by urgency helped an international transportation company increase the speed of request processing by 2.5 times. Thanks to more efficient support service, the company has increased its customer retention rate by 8% and also improved transportation safety.

Automation of routine tasks

In order to provide effective interaction with all structures and people involved in processes related to cargo and passenger transportation, shipping companies increasingly implement intelligent CRM systems. Programs, designed for the tasks of a particular business in this area, help control internal business processes, maintain communication with a network of partners and contractors, as well as to provide rapid and efficient information exchange between the project participants. Saving time on routine duties helps devote resources to more important tasks.

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Today, the leaders of the international shipping industry are facing great challenges. First of all, they include ensuring reliability and efficiency of sea and river shipments, cost reduction and reduction of negative impact on the environment. It’s possible to achieve high results in this area only through creating technically advanced port infrastructure and implementing intellectual systems of vessel control. Today the use of Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, digital twins and other technologies allow for shipping companies, forwarding companies, logistics and transportation companies as well as other industry players to remain competitive and improve processes while increasing operational efficiency and the quality of work performed.

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