UK Chamber CEO Guy Platten blogs about how the technologies and innovation associated with intelligent transport systems can deliver benefits to the shipping industry.
It is a commonly held perception that the shipping industry has traditionally been slow to embrace new technologies. A perception that is so surprising because it has been technological advance has made the shipping industry what it is. Without technology, it simply would not be possible to move 90% of the world’s internationally traded goods in an efficient way.
For centuries, millennia even, ships were powered by wind and paddle. Then coal, then oil and now in many cases it is natural gas. It could be argued that globalisation itself, something which no industry has benefited from more than shipping, was only made possible through the containerisation of freight.
Or perhaps, containerisation was only thought of because of globalisation: the two are inextricably linked.
Change has always been driven by economic opportunity. But in the modern era it is driven by a much more complex mixture of market conditions and regulatory culture which require technological solutions, but also offer financial opportunity. For example, the development of scrubber technologies, primarily in Germany and Sweden, has been driven by the IMO regulatory agenda. Companies which had the horizon-scanning enterprise to turn the opportunities this agenda presented into a commercial reality have benefited greatly and I have to say, I wish we’d been a little quicker off the mark to do the same here in the UK.
We should not ignore either the human benefit of improving technology – not just for passengers and customers but for seafarers too. At the moment we are witnessing an exciting revolution in maritime internet connectivity with internet speeds at sea by 2025 likely to be 100 times that of 2011.
Improvements in maritime connectivity will also bring many benefits to the transport sector as a whole. For example, supply chains can be more efficiently organized around adaptable operations that leverage timely information on cargo, routes, and the operation and condition of assets.
Until now it has been impossible for a customer to track the exact location of their shipments. This is changing, not necessarily because it’s easier for the industry, but because customers demand it. If you’re used to knowing where a book you’ve ordered from Amazon is, you certainly expect to see where your container is.
Alongside these improvements, customer experience should also be front and centre of the industry’s thoughts. For example, in the ferry and cruise sector, advanced booking systems underpinned by sophisticated technologies will ease passenger check-in’s and companies such as Stena are investing in researching new technologies and how they might be adopted.
Through using pioneering intelligent transport systems businesses across the sector, we will be better equipped to meet the needs of their customers and suppliers, and as industry as a whole we will better equipped to ensure the safety and welfare of our seafarers, to exploit new commercial opportunities and to move the world’s trade more efficiently than ever before.