The shipping industry has played a major role in the expansion of business and trade for years. It is the most effective mode of trading and has a significant influence on the world economy. For centuries, shipping companies have transported cargo in every form effortlessly. However, with the growing population, imports and exports have increased exponentially in the global markets and this escalation is expected to continue for quite a long time.
Maritime trading companies have always used traditional methods of transportation and correspondence, such as bulk carriers, cargo ships, radio signals, and more. These days, however, with the introduction of revolutionary technology and ideas, it has become imperative for the trade industries to adopt new technological trends for providing an even faster and more efficient trade service.
Advancement in technology has introduced a number of techniques that can ensure an upgrade in the overall operation of the shipping industry. The introduction of megaships, robots replacing manpower, new and upgraded materials, alternative fuels is set to bring about a drastic change in the shipping industry.
Let us study some of the major shipping trends here, which are shaping the future of the shipping industry.
Technological Trends in the Shipping Industry
- The Growth of Sensor Technology
Sensor technology is one of the most advanced and well-developed technologies today. With the introduction of sensors, there is no need for checking equipment on the ships manually. Connecting all the machinery to sensors through wireless connectivity enables the crew on the ship to keep accurate tabs on the working condition of machines, the maintenance required at regular intervals, and their complete operability on ships.
In addition, if the sensors are combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence, they can access remote locations and analyze the data, immediately sending out alerts if any of the ship’s parts need maintenance.
Sensor technology, if calibrated correctly, can guarantee the most efficient operation on ships.
- Robotic Automation
The use of robots in every sector has become quite common in the past few years. In the shipping industry, robots are gradually being used to aid all the tasks. Activities like packing, delivering, inspection, firefighting, etc. can be carried out by robots effortlessly.
Since robots work more effectively and without any breaks, the shipping industry is anticipated to come to rely heavily on the use of robots for every function. These robots will also be able to locate and navigate ships and can be used to eliminate a threat in case of an attack. The size of these robots is also being worked upon. Robots the size of heavy machinery can take up a lot of space and prove to be a hurdle. New types of robots, called ‘mini-robots’, are being paired with the sensors to identify and record all the data in the ship and work on it.
Given the increasing trend of robotic automation, it can be expected that in the next few years, manpower aboard ships will be considerably reduced.
- Autonomous Ships
Autonomous systems in shipping are gaining immense popularity on account of their capability to deliver goods without any interference. These systems operate at peak efficiency for a significantly longer duration that is needed in the shipping industry.
Leading technology companies have invested in the research and development of these autonomous systems. Surface, underwater, and air-based vehicles are being used to monitor activity, tap desirable locations for oil and natural gas, and other such activities. These autonomous systems are equipped with the latest, advanced heat mapping and material detection technology, which eliminates the human effort involved.
For instance, a Transportation Management System (TMS) is a system designed to manage the supply of goods efficiently. It enables the company to keep a proper track record of their shipments and whether or not they are being delivered to the correct destination.
- IoT (Internet of Things)
IoT primarily consists of a GPS and a cloud-based database which stores all the data collected by devices on the ship. IoT also connects the sensors, robots and other devices through a wireless network. The advantage of using IoT is that, since it keeps track of all devices and shipments, the shipping industry will be able to provide better customer service. It can provide customers with information about the location, time of arrival and delay in the shipment. IoT is, hence, a highly anticipated technological solution to management problems on the ship.
- Advanced Environment-Friendly Material
Increasing trade in the shipping industry has caused a lot of pollution and environmental damage. Waste effluents, fuel from ships, oil spills, and other shipping-related issues have made it necessary to adopt a greener approach in the maritime industry. Megaships are being designed with more sustainable materials, like fibre-reinforced plastic, to carry a large quantity of cargo at a time, thus reducing traffic. The reducing traffic will also ensure reduced carbon footprint of the ships.
- Efficient Propulsion Techniques
The large amount of fuel used in ships has adverse effects on the environment. New technology combined with innovative thinking has led to the substitution of common fuels with low carbon fuels and alternative fuels, thus reducing the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon and sulfur.
Modifications to the sails, hulls and other parts of the ship can also increase propulsion, which have a positive environmental impact.
- Port Management
Optimization of operating procedures at the harbor with the help of technology can reduce the time the ships have to wait at the port. The reduced waiting time will guarantee less carbon emission from ships at the docks. To make the unloading of the ship faster, it is important to make use of robots and other machinery to lift heavy cargo.
The Other Side of the Coin
The increase in the use of technology in shipping has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, it reduces the manual work and speeds up processes for better output and efficiency; but on the other hand, it constitutes increased security risks as well.
With the use of internet in every apparatus of the ship, cyber security is of utmost importance. Testing and regular data audits must become a routine aboard the ships. A large amount of data can be captured and stored in secure servers and analyzed.
It is the responsibility of software and device developers to ensure that the appropriate security standards are maintained while integrating technology in various applications. Ship manufacturers and engineers also need to account for the growing presence of technology in ships and revise ship design as necessary.
Technology and shipping are no longer strangers but neither has technology replaced manual involvement in shipping. It is important that technology be seen as a valuable tool to assist shipping operations and used accordingly.
All the available technology, if put to proper use and frequently updated, can ensure a much more competent shipping industry in the near future. What are your thoughts on the trends in shipping? Let us know in the comments section below!
Reference :  Global Maritime Technology Trends 2030 – Lloyd’s Register