The pressing need to digitalize operations in the shipping sector was not more pronounced than at present, when the industry is on course to sailing back to normalcy after battling one crisis after another following the Covid-19 epidemic. The code of behavior enforced during the epidemic showed we can manage our daily routines without the need to exchange currencies, documentation or undertake travel, which are activities we got accustomed to as a conventional way of life, and believed cannot be substituted. Modern technological tools, particularly internet’s deep penetration collectively with the resourcefulness of smart phones and personal computers, showed us that digitalization is the answer to the sluggishness that seemed apparent from the bureaucratic and approval seeking work culture that had become the norm.
Digitalization in shipping is an inevitable and natural progression from the traditional processes involved in the movement of cargo right through the time of its booking to the last delivery. To grasp this better, let’s look into areas where digitalization can make a forceful impact on the freight industry:
- Electronic Bill of Lading (eBL) to replace the traditional Bill of Lading dispatched by the shipper to the consignee. In an eBL, we enter data digitally along with electronic stamps and signatures. The eBL is instantly transferred to the rightful recipient instantly through secure systems such as CRMs, ERPs or TMS (Transportation Management Systems).
- Robotics engineering that designs machines to assist or completely take over a particular role performed by humans.
- Digital Freight Platforms that use web and mobile based technology to match shippers’ available freight loads with carriers’ available capacity.
- Smart Containers integrated with the Internet of Things technologies, sensors and GPS Tracking enabling end-to-end visibility, ensuring efficiency, security, and safety along the supply chain.
- Automated Ports for effective control of traffic at the port to optimize port capacity and efficiency.
The shipping industry and its allied sectors, including activities related to ports, container depots and repair & maintenance, are facing an urgent need to employ the benefits of the digitalization wave racing through most onshore businesses. The gains that will follow range from improvements in operational efficiency and cost reductions to addressing the concerns of carbon emissions from vessels that are a burning issue with environmentalists.
Electronic Storage and retrieval of historical records
Documents in digital format eliminate physical storage of documents and assist their instant retrieval with reference numbers. Such electronic records also generate management reports to assist decision making.
Internet of Things for enhanced fleet operations
Data analytics enabled through sensors placed onboard vessels help optimized cargo handling, route planning, fuel consumption and maintenance. In the times ahead, ships will incorporate a network of sensors to assess all facets of operations. Although, on the flip side, adoption to Internet of Things entails increased security concerns from cyber-attacks, such fears are being addressed through holistic cyber security practices and multi-layered protection.
Managing complex tasks with robotics
Across most business sectors, robots are becoming a major driver of economic and social development. The chief areas where robots find application in the shipping sector are fire detection, maintenance of the hull, perform inspection of ships and timely prediction of the need for repair and maintenance. The firefighter robot SAFFiR developed by the Naval Research Laboratory is an independent hominid-like machine that detects and extinguishes fires onboard vessels, working alongside human firefighters.
Optimal decision making with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
To gain competitive lead, leading shipping companies are adopting AI and machine learning to optimize business processes, make voyage forecasts and perform timely vessel maintenance. AI-based predictive positioning systems empower the masters and bridge teams to examine and forecast future positions, movements and maneuvers of vessels in advance. This improves situational awareness and safety.
Maritime digitalization drives cost reductions and paves the way to generate additional revenue streams for the shipping industry. It brings immense value to customers who are becoming more demanding, thanks to the sweeping changes happening across all frontiers of our lives from the digital revolution.
Constant engagement with leaders in the shipping industry, domain skill and technology expertise make iInterchange Systems your ideal partner to fulfill the software needs of container depots and ocean carriers.