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Digital Future: The New Maritime Sharing Economy

In the old days, ships left port and they hopefully arrived where they should. Now masses of data points and sensors are enabling a new maritime sharing economy.

The old model of the shipping ecosystem used to be “you share, you lose,” said Lasse Kristoffersen, Torvald Klavaness chief executive. But the rapid pace of digitalization has shifted this mindset to sharing means winning, much like the business models behind Amazon and Uber.


The online retailer was able to change consumers’ attitude towards loyalty – i.e. the local bookshop – and transform it into customer empowerment: the power to buy anything at anytime with reviews and buyers’ tips from around the world. The ride-sharing App did the same with assets, shifting the balance from ownership to access.


“We will see much more sharing of resources among players that used to say we share, we lose,” said Kristoffersen at the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) Annual Conference 2016, “The New Blue” in April.



Digital Incubator


Klavaness has been one of the Norwegian shipowners blazing a trail for digitalization in the traditionally conservative, maritime industry. The company last year established Klavaness Laboratories (KLAB) to incubate new digital solutions and services.


KLAB has so far developed three digital platforms in less than one year: Perform, Cargo, and Predikt. Part of the focus is on speed. In two weeks, it has been able to go from idea to paper prototype and test trials in what would have normally taken up to two months or two years. The other drivers are digitization, energy efficiency and the sharing economy.


Perform helps shipowners measure, benchmark and value the performance of vessels, in particular on energy. Its other platform Cargo helps better manage cargo and ships online in real time and the whole supply chain. It can be a  shared economy, which is one of the biggest changes happening in shipping, according to Kristoffersen.


Another development is the affordability of AIS (automatic identification system) data on ships all around the world detailing where they are, where they are heading, and their speed. KLAB has combined this information with algorithms into Predikt to help forecast the supply-demand balance.



“The more ships that are part of it, the more we get out,” said Kristoffersen. “We believe our data is asset strategic.”



Empowering Customers


Digitalization is sparking small start-ups to take advantage of this empowerment. Oslo-based Xenata has developed a way of providing price intelligence on freight container rates based on market data from 60,000 port-to-port connections. Its benchmarking and market intelligence platform empowers shipowners and freight forwarders to shop for the best rates and find gaps in freight rates to optimize transport costs.


“We saw an industry that was volatile and opaque and in need of transparency,” said Patrick Berglund, Xenata chief executive, during an industry pitch at NSA’s Annual Conference. “The whole industry was disconnected, so we decided to connect the dots.”


Ideas like this will play an increasingly important role in the maritime industry in the coming decades, according to the Norwegian consultant company Menon. Its recent report “Maritime Industry in the 21st Century – Prognosis, Trends and Drivers” predicts enabling technologies will be one of seven important drivers creating opportunities and challenges.


“In the future it might be data, and not ships, which create the greatest value in the industry,” said Christian Svane Mellbye, senior consultant at Menon, which prepared the report with the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (MARINTEK) for the Research Council of Norway. “New business models based on data collection from vessels' operations will be able to turn upside down established business models.”



Virtual Twins


The Norwegian classification company, DNV GL’s chief executive, Remi Eriksen predicts digitalization will be one of the two key themes in the near future for shipping, along with de-carbonization. The maritime industry is subject to increasing environmental regulations at a time of overcapacity in all segments, he said during a press conference this April in connection with the launch of DNV GL ‘s “Technology Outlook 2025” report in Oslo. This will make innovation more important than ever.


“The ship of the future will be a floating computer,” said Eriksen.


Among its maritime technology predictions, he foresees a dramatic increase in 3D printing to make spare ship parts on shore, autonomous ships, new battery chemistry speeding the uptake of hybrid and electric propulsion on ships, more connected ships, and even digital twins.


In the future, engineers from around the world will simultaneously work on the same digital copy of any asset, such as ships, to have a virtual test bench and help cut time and costs on development. The digital twin will mostly be about using the increasing availability of big data analytics and sensors to work on a cloud-based visual image that lets different stakeholders explore layout, design specifications, and simulation models.


“The coming decade will be about implementation and scaling of technology which we already have,” said Eriksen, forecasting a “new renaissance” in industrial progress and cyber-physical systems.


Photo: DNV GL

Hull Drones


Another trend DNV GL sees is increased automation through drones. The company last April partnered with a small Singapore start-up company called SwarmX on a fully autonomous docking station called The Hive that can monitor wind and solar farms.


Drones are also being considered for surveying the inside of ship hulls to cut the cost and time associated with scaffolds. DNV GL tested a modified off-the-shelf drone on a cargo tank in Poland last December. It plans to work on a more advanced model and possibly combine it with its IRIS system, which automatically associates photos onboard a ship with a 3D model of the vessel’s structure.


The company announced in June it had recently completed the first production surveys using a drone on the MV Apollo, a chemical tanker owned by Carl Büttner Ship management GmbH, in Bremerhaven, Germany. Two DNV GL surveyors used the drone to inspect 14 tanks over a period of two and a half days.

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