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Maritime News for Filipino Seafarers

Three technology trends transforming shipping

Three technology trends transforming shipping

New technologies are continually being developed to improve industrial and business operations. In shipping the aim is that they also make the industry safer and reduce its environmental impact. Increasingly, tasks are being carried out remotely, with robotics doing jobs humans once used.

There is not one particular technology that has or will transform the way the shipping industry operates, but there are an increasing number of technologies and solutions that look set to make significant changes to commercial shipping in the near future. Here are three technologies that we see as transforming the future of shipping.


Sensor technologies are well developed but they are becoming increasingly intelligent. They are found in many forms of autonomous operations and more recent focus has been on looking at how different sensors can be combined to optimise their output.

Developers are maximising their ability to read more and more complex information generated by ships. Sensors can process huge quantities of information and digest it into a readable format to give humans an insight into why a ship is behaving in a particular way. By doing this it gives the human better situational awareness and provides it with the power to carry out better decision making.

Sensors have and will continue to transform shipping by providing a communication platform between different equipment, but also between the ship and the human. Today, sensors are becoming more closely integrated, giving them another level of intelligence that means they can see far deeper into a ship’s behaviour than a human could ever do. Sensors are an enabler and will be used as a platform to continue to develop the communication abilities between a crew and its ship. By connecting artificial intelligence and machine-learning to sensors, they will ultimately be able to provide more insight into how and why a ship will operate most efficiently than ever known before.


Robots are used on different levels to control, inspect, communicate and even carry out maintenance work or assist with firefighting onboard ships. They can operate both via remote control and autonomously and their capabilities are advancing both inside and outside the maritime industry.

Robots have and will be used to improve safety of shipping, carrying out tasks that are dangerous to humans and increasing production as they work faster and longer without breaks. They will not be used to replace humans, but to aid them. One such robot is the Shipboard Autonomous Fire Fighting Robot (SAFFiR), developed by Naval Research Laboratory with Virginia Tech and other US universities. It is capable of finding fires onboard, use fire suppressors such as nozzles and autonomously navigate the ship with a sensor suite.

Robots may even be used to help pirate and hostage situations. Recon Robotics’ Throwbot XT is a throwable device at just 540g. It can be directed by the operator to move through a structure and transmit video to the operator. Recon Robotics claims it can be used to locate armed subjects, confirm the presence of hostages or innocent civilians, listen in on conversations, and reveal the layout of rooms.

In a Global Marine Technology Trends 2030 report by the University of Southampton, Lloyd’s Register, and QinetiQ, experts see advances in motion control, cognition, sensing, miniaturisation, and robot-to-robot communication, that will advance robotic capabilities and stimulate market prevalence worldwide.

Advanced materials

Transportation of 90% of world trade by ships means that the maritime industry faces some challenges when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of its operations. To combat these concerns, a number of advanced materials are being deployed and developed to ensure the transformation of shipping includes making its impact on the environment less and less.

According to the Global Marine Technology Trends 2030 report, materials will continue to accelerate to develop structures that are made from refined and reliable properties. Environmental sensing, self-cleaning, self-healing, enhanced electrical conductance and shape modification, are expected through the development of nano-materials to deliver better performance and environmental benefits.

The Ocean Cleanup Technology, developed by 23-year old Boyan Slat, consists of advanced materials to combat the ocean garbage problem. A hard-walled pipe made from durable and recyclable high density polyethylene with a fibre reinforced thermoplastic polyurethane screen (made to last decades in the ocean) catches concentrated plastic. This ocean plastic will then be recycled.

Another example is the Oleo oil soaking sponge, developed by the Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois. In trials it has shown to absorb 90% of its own weight in spilled oil before being squeezed out and reused. It is made from a foam consisting of polyurethane or polyimide plastics and coated with oil-loving silane molecules that like to capture oil.

Both the Oleo sponge and the Ocean Cleanup Technology show how the use of different materials combined with innovative thinking is leading to technologies that have the potential to transform shipping’s impact upon the natural ocean environment.
Source: Fathom-Shipping