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The Maritime Industry is slowly embracing technology, but some will be left behind!

The Maritime Industry is slowly embracing technology, but some will be left behind!

So here we are, the year is 2018 and technology adoptions are at the forefront of the most significant changes happening all around us. What I find very intriguing is that there are still several people in the maritime industry who do not believe change is coming and have some erroneous belief that those changes will not happen in their company, or that it is not going to affect them.

While it is mind-blowing to imagine some people are still not “getting it,” I think the many technology solutions and jargons in the market are confusing people. As Program Director of Next Generation Technical Management for a major maritime company, I get to identify and evaluate different existing technologies that can enable our organization to achieve its objectives better, faster, and cheaper. In the process, however, I have found that while most of these solutions are business focused, the people selling these solutions are too technology orientated and in many cases, incapable of sitting with a company executive and making them understand the benefits of their technology in terms non-IT executives understand. In my view, this adds to the confusion and denial we see in the industry today.

It is well known that the maritime industry has historically been slower to implement technology changes that are regularly adopted quickly inshore companies, but the tide is changing, and industry leaders need to accept the fact that change is coming and make an effort to understand its expected impact or risk becoming the next KODAK. Adaptation of innovation policies as part of the company culture is the key to adopt it gradually and at the right pace rather than waiting to be disrupted by external forces.

To exacerbate the situation, I see many vessel owners and operators view IoT, analytics, and predictive maintenance as theoretical concepts, usually bringing up connectivity challenges at sea as their reasoning for why they believe these solutions cannot succeed.

On the other hand, having moved to Singapore has allowed me to work closely with the Maritime Port Authorities Singapore (MPA), and the pace of technology adoption happening here is impressive. It is in places like Singapore that I believe we will see the real start of the maritime 4.0 transformation. The bad news is that the typical traditionalists who do not accept change is coming will be left behind, and will only realize their mistake when it is too late. I hope some of them will read this article, understand what is happening in the industry and prepare to be part of the change.

Realistically, I do not believe that unmanned shipping will take over the entire industry for the next twenty to thirty years. There are still many challenges technology has to overcome, but I am confident we will start to see immediately a move towards data-driven decision making and new business models that perhaps we do not yet understand.

My message to all people working in the maritime industry is to prepare, to learn, and not be left behind. My message to vessel owners and operators is that you must push for innovation now before you are disrupted. Moreover, my word for technologists in the maritime industry is that you need to focus your message to cover the basic concerns of the marine sector before you can get them to visualize a shipping 4.0 environment.
Source: Chakib Abi-Saab, Executive Management / IoT / Digital Transformation / Strategic Business Planning