What are the upcoming technological revolutions in maritime?

Technological revolutions in maritime shipping help overcome maritime challenges by increasing security, operational efficiency, productivity, and environmental sustainability. In earlier days, maritime shipping depended on workers responsible for carrying out all necessary maritime operations such as cargo handling, operating resources, and formulating new action plans. Immense involvement of humans in maritime led to various risks and challenges in maritime shipping. Technological revolutions in maritime are the solution to various cyber threats, navigational errors and increased shipping emissions. Let us learn more about how technology helps maritime operations.  

Operations in maritime shipping 

Ships carry a significant volume of goods to international destinations as they are cost-effective shipping cargo worldwide. Shippers worldwide buy or rent shipping containers to store goods for transportation. Maritime shipping also accommodates LCL shipments by allowing cargo consolidation. The goods are brought to the port facilities using trucks or trains for intermodal transportation through sea vessels. Shipping ports are maritime infrastructures that assist maritime transportation. Various port facilities, such as container yards or quays, contribute to the smooth functioning of port operations. Ports have worked through effective communication, cooperation, and collaboration between various shipping parties for years.  

Port operations in maritime shipping include container gate in, documentation, container inspection, cargo loading, customs clearances, container stowage plans, optimizing navigation routes, cargo unloading, temporary storage of containers, and managing shipping lines. Each operation uses abundant maritime resources such as vehicles, machines, equipment, and trained personnel. However, manual cargo handling often results in potential risks caused by human errors. It can cause cargo damage and also lead to fatalities. Therefore, the port management system has switched towards integrating technology in maritime operations. 

Benefits of technology in maritime  

Technology is widely used in maritime shipping to facilitate port operations and enhance client service. 

  1. Predictive maintenance – Maritime shipping involves using multiple resources such as machines, systems, equipment, and vehicles that require timely maintenance and repairs. Technology assists in predicting potential issues and breakdowns that may cause disruptions in maritime shipping if left unattended. Technology also prompts solutions for problems emerging in the resources. 
  1. Easy navigation – Ships sailing on international waters must follow an optimized route to save fuel, avoid maritime traffic, and work on fixed schedules. Technology helps filter the best routes for navigation and suggests alternate routes in maritime emergencies. 
  1. Environmental sustainability – By optimizing shipping routes, ships sail using less fuels that burn to release shipping emissions. The International Maritime Organization has formulated EEXI and CII regulations to assist decarbonization in shipping.  
  1. Enhances operational efficiency – Manual handling of shipping operations involve risks of human errors and yields slower results than shipping tasks performed using technology. It involves data analytics, container loading and unloading, and automation. 
  1. Cost savings – Technology enhances the operational efficiency of shipping ports, streamlining supply chain operations and helping them run on fixed schedules. It also enables better risk management practices, thereby allowing cost savings. 

Challenges in maritime shipping 

  1. Cyberthreats – Maritime shipping connects various systems used in maritime operations, such as port management, managing liner shipping, formulating container stowage plans, and navigation on international waters. Since all these systems are connected, cyber threats such as unauthorized access or hacking are potential risks. It amounts to data manipulation or theft by disrupting supply chain operations. Protecting maritime systems against cyber threats is essential, as is following cybersecurity practices in maritime shipping. 
  1. Environmental damage – Maritime shipping causes a significant release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Maritime accidents such as oil spills, shipping containers falling in the sea, or shipwrecks also damage the maritime ecosystem. Due to the irreversible damage caused by shipping to the environment, it has become a challenge for shipping companies to switch to green shipping. 
  1. Maritime emergencies – Geopolitical events, natural disasters, piracy, and pandemics are uncertain situations that may challenge the transport of goods via ships. Since these emergencies are unforeseen, it is challenging for port authorities to tackle them. 
  1. Lack of trained personnel – Ports that depend on manual labor require trained personnel who are experienced and skilled in operating various machines, vehicles, and equipment to ensure safe cargo handling. This is challenging for ports as the industry has few trained workers. 
  1. Port congestion – Port authorities are responsible for managing ships’ berthing and turnaround time. Any delays in cargo loading, unloading, documentation, or customs clearances can lead to port congestion and container rollover in shipping. This significantly delays the entire maritime circuit of the port. 

Technological revolutions in maritime 

  1. Automation – Shipping ports are switching towards automation in maritime operations to improve operational speed and efficiency. Automated port terminals and autonomous ships are two applications of automation in maritime. In the case of automated shipping ports, AGVs or automated guided vehicles that can operate with minimum or no human intervention are used. Automation in maritime helps improve safety and reduce operational costs. 
  1. Internet of ThingsIoT in shipping is another technological revolution in maritime that uses IoT sensors attached to assets to help track and monitor their status. The IoT devices help in real-time tracking the vessel status and act as a container tracking technology. It also helps in inventory management and tracking containers stored at container depots. 
  1. Big data analytics – All the data from various maritime operations is stored in systems for later access by big data analytics. It helps in processing large volumes and diverse data sets from various sources. Analyzing historical data helps filter valuable insights that help make data-driven decisions for optimizing routes and improving operational efficiency. 
  1. Blockchain technology – Maritime shipping involves various parties, including the shipper, consignee, shipping company, and freight forwarders. Transactions in maritime shipping are primarily international, and stakeholders demand a safe and legal transaction method. Blockchain is a digital ledger that helps in legal transactions, protects user privacy, and allows stakeholders to track their assets throughout the supply chain. It also helps verify documentation and reduce fraud risks in the shipping industry.  
  1. Digital twin technology – Maritime shipping depends on plenty of resources, processes, and updated strategies to increase operational efficiency in the supply chain. Digital twin technology helps create a virtual replica of any physical assets or ideas to help analyze their performance in the real world. It helps save significant economic investments in resources or ideas that are bound to fail. 
  1. Communication and navigationContainer tracking systems and vessel navigation are performed using technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), a global positioning system (GPS), and the Internet of Things (IoT), which uses satellite and other forms of communication to convey real-time information about the vessel to the operators situated remotely. These technologies enable stakeholders to track and monitor their shipments and contribute to safer and more efficient maritime operations. 
  1. Artificial intelligence – AI-based predictive maintenance helps predict potential breakdowns or failures in various maritime resources and proactively schedule maintenance or repairs. It helps prevent supply chain disruptions and economic losses caused by end-of-moment breakdowns. It also helps extend the lifespan of resources. 
  1. Drones – Container inspection at ports is challenging when left to perform manually. The role of drones in container inspection is to get an aerial view of containers that are stacked high. Cameras and thermal sensors are added to drones to detect the presence of any illegal substances in the containers. Drones effectively monitor and survey containers before and after a voyage.  

These are a few technological revolutions in maritime that are increasing operational efficiency, environmental sustainability and cost savings in shipping. 

LOTUS Containers sells shipping containers worldwide by partnering with more than 300 container depots. We sell used and new containers in various sizes capable of maritime shipping.

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