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Digital capabilities must be at the heart of shipowners’ and managers’ strategy

Managers should plan ‘next step’ digitalisation, ahead of greater scrutiny of shipping by end users

THE Covid-19 pandemic has already demonstrated the necessity of digital platforms for communication and collaboration in ship management. Business and consumer platforms have been successfully used to support crew welfare, conduct remote inspections and provide remote assistance — technological advancements in recent years have enabled the industry to navigate the storm far better than it would have a decade ago.

Simultaneously, the pandemic has increased maritime’s profile, through seafarers’ plight stuck on board and, more recently, logistics bottlenecks in key ports, affecting supply of goods and services. As understanding of how ships support the world economy increases, so will the influence and demands of end users. The maritime industry can expect more scrutiny on optimisation, and with that comes a necessity to digitalise and leverage data.

Anglo-Eastern believes that to keep at the forefront of the industry, it is essential for shipowners and shipmanagers to place their digital capabilities at the heart of their strategy, to unlock the opportunities presented by closer collaboration and optimisation between the teams on board, those ashore and with the client teams they serve.

In order to achieve its goals, Anglo-Eastern is implementing an integrated system that provides shore management teams and shipowners with instant, real-time access to information, from vessel location and voyage information to financial and procurement details, maintenance status and operational performance.

This is provided on user-friendly interfaces backed by cloud based systems. The data ecosystem is digitally connected within the ship, and the ecosystem plugged into ‘the cloud’. That cloud ensures a single version of the ‘truth’ available on board, in the ship manager’s office and with the shipowner, in real time. It lifts the ‘veil’ that exists today between ship and shore and shipmanager and owner, ensuring transparency.

Another key aspect of the digital future of shipmanagement is the ability to use data to optimise performance, whether to support crew welfare, improve operational efficiencies, enhance safety, or advance decision-making. Leveraging digital solutions has shifted from being a luxury to a necessity for business competitiveness and success. Anglo-Eastern’s integrated system allows it to slice and dice data across its fleet, and automatically build models for individual ships’ voyage and fuel optimisation.

Ships also have to be ready for digitalisation, requiring cybersecure infrastructure on board with bandwidth capability to share data with shore. ‘Tech’ companies are already prepared, offering Low-Earth Orbit Satellite technology which will bring affordable, high speed internet coverage globally.

Also needed is shoreside hardware capable of exploiting ships’ data. Anglo-Eastern has a dedicated Fleet Operations Centre with latest technology, to review and compare different data sets, all linked into videoconferencing capabilities. This room doubles as an Emergency Response Centre in which an Emergency Team can convene to handle any situation, with the capability to interpret all applicable data across a single system.

Digital transformation of ship management is already in progress, but it is important to look to the next steps.

Today’s moves are paving the way to a point where voyage planning on board takes into account not just safe passage, weather, tide and speed, but also a myriad other contributing factors; berth and cargo availability, optimised maintenance timing, crew change timing, flight availability and costs etc. Each actor and decision influences the next, but the optimum solution is generated by a computer capable of assimilating all the variables.

As we have seen in other industries such as aviation, oil and gas and vehicle manufacturing, use of data and artificial intelligence will play an increasing role in driving shipping’s economic value and efficiency, and its interaction with other sectors. Now is the time for all players to make sure they are willing and able to take up the challenge and be ready for the digital future of shipping.

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