The world is changing rapidly, as is the shipping industry. There is an increased focus on boosting the green image of shipping, as well as improving efficiency through emerging technologies. The commercial shipping industry has constantly been evolving, with a lot of pressure to innovate. These past few years have been particularly interesting.
Trends such as environmental protection and globalization have changed the landscape of the industry and will continue to influence it for the foreseeable future. These changes are making the commercial shipping industry much more exciting, with new challenges and innovations for workers in the industry to take on.
When observing the changes taking place in the commercial shipping industry, some emerging trends can be seen, concerning business models, technology and regulations.
Bigger and Better Ships
Nowadays, there are quite a few behemoths transporting containers by sea. If you are in the shipping industry or are interested in ships in general, you probably know some examples of large container ships. The Barzan, MSC Oscar, and the Magleby Maersk are all massive vessels, with lengths reaching over a thousand feet and cargoes that would typically require over 5000 trucks to carry.
Container ships have gotten much bigger and better over the past few years, and this trend looks set to continue. Every year, there are new plans and designs for megaships that are larger than what’s currently available. The rise of containerization and automation has sparked this trend, due to quicker discharging and loading processes for vessels.
Not too long ago, containers seemed to be the only reasonable way to transport cargo. Everyone seemed to target the container trade. Today, however, we can see that there is a greater investment in specialized ships that transport difficult cargo. This trend can be observed in the transportation of refrigerated cargo, chemicals, and heavy machinery, such as cars and trucks. There are even extremely specialized ships that are built for the specific purpose of transporting windmill parts. As a result, shipping crews now require more specialized knowledge about their ships and cargo.
Just like it is in most industries today, and in many facets of everyday life, there is an increasing focus on environmental friendliness. While ships are getting larger and more efficient, there is also continuous innovation that focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of container ships.
Various improvements are being made to reduce carbon and sulfur emissions, as well as to improve the performance of propellers and engines. These innovations are just the beginning of the green revolution in commercial shipping, as even more advanced innovations are in the works for a more environmentally friendly industry.
There is an increasing amount of data being gathered in shipping operations: accident data, cargo data, weather data, etc. This data is being analyzed and used to make shipping operations more efficient.
The technology used for big data analytics has evolved rapidly. This has given shipping companies the ability to discover correlations in the data through the use of advanced algorithms. Spotting these correlations is helping shipping companies make better decisions regarding their operations. Although there are so many benefits to having data and improved analytics, there’s also the issue of security. Commercial shipping operations are going to see an increased need for cyber security and data protection.
Prominence of Robotics and Automated Machinery
A big talking point, not only in the commercial shipping industry, is the use of robots. According to a report on global marine technology trends, by 2030, there will be three new types of robots that would be prominently used in the commercial shipping industry. These robots would have functions such as learning, handling cargo, and conducting inspections in harsh weather conditions and environments.
Along with these robots, new types of monitors, sensors, and remote control technology would be developed and used in the industry. These types of technology would integrate with other aspects of shipping operations and even other emerging technology, such as big data and the internet of things. As a result, the need for human interaction with dangerous processes would be significantly reduced.
Advanced Communications and Connectivity
With the growth of communication technologies, such as Wi-Fi and 5G connectivity, commercial shipping vessels are expected to be more connected to shipping operators. Improving connectivity would allow these operators to easily and effectively monitor ships through technologies such as live audio streams, recording devices and HD video streams.
Operators are then able to make real-time decisions regarding ship management and operations through this technology. Operators would additionally be able to monitor the welfare of the crew and know if any urgent issues need to be addressed.
There is an autonomous vehicle trend in various transport-based industries, from the automotive industry to aviation. So, in the future, you can expect to see more of these vehicles being used, even in the maritime shipping industry. Just like cars and planes, shipping vessels could be increasingly automated.
These autonomous vessels will change the landscape of the industry; they would be commercially viable because of their cost-efficiency and could be used in more harsh work environments such as mining, oil, and gas operations.
Alternative Fuels and Energy Conservation
A lot of investment is currently being made in alternative fuels and renewable energy. Now that climate change has more prominence in global affairs, strict regulations on carbon emissions could be implemented by governments around the world. Thus, the need for alternative and emission-free sources of power such as hydrogen fuel could increase.
The shipping industry is expected to adopt these new technologies and test them on smaller vessels before implementing them on a large scale.
Guest Blogger – David Madden
David Madden is an efficiency expert. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used, reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, ibc totes, and industrial racks.
Header photo: Infinitum Produx – shutterstock.com