shipping industry: why not take the big technology plunge? #OBL13

If I were to tell you that crews on some ships, which are off at sea for months at a time, don’t even have Internet access, and, on the other hand that tomorrows ships will be  “manned” by cyborg crews, would you believe me?  That’s quite a gap!  Yet this is today’s shipping industry technology divide.   

According to Orange Business Live (#OBL13) speaker Steve Prentice from Gartner research, companies must be technologically driven to survive, so why hasn’t the shipping industry taken the big plunge?

Before our economic decomposition, the shipping industry was the fat cat of enterprise sectors.  More and more companies were producing and shipping goods from Asia to the Western world, and citizen purchasing power depended on it.  And then the crack.  And then the earth care.  And then the economical sinking of the once fat cat to stray.  

In today’s shipping industry breakout session at Orange Business Live, CEO for Stark Moore Macmillan Roger Adamson shared real figures.  There are 50 thousand ships worldwide across all sectors, i.e. tankers and cargoes.  As recently as 2010, a ship would get $30K a day to do its job; today it’s dropped one third to $10K per day.  Ouch.  This is in part due to shipping reduction for environmental protection.  Related to this Adamson says that Asia-to-Europe container market rates have dropped 50 percent.  

How to keep the shipping industry afloat?  

How to make it greener?

How to make it more livable?

Ahhh, technology my dear reader.  Yet (tellingly) in the Global Maritime Trends 2030 report, technology is not even mentioned.  That’s because shipping is an industry that has one sea leg and half a wooden peg-leg in the past.  Adamson says that as the shipping future gets smaller, the ships will get bigger. 

“The whole fabric of ships will change, and the entire ship will become a wireless device.” 

This will be possible thanks to a number of technologies.   They include shipping industry-driven ones like e-navigation and regulatory techy bits; plus outer-industry components such as nanotechnology, the internet of things (I prefer calling it M2M), cloud computing, 3D printing, and even ingestible chips! 

For example, Buckypaper, a nanomaterial that’s 500 times stronger than steel that can--bonus-- conduct heat and electricity, could replace much of the material used to manufacture vessels today.  They would thus be lighter, would consume less fuel and be “greener”.  Adamson says the quickest way to reduce ship fuel consumption is to cover the hull with a nanotech paint that never rusts and never collects barnacles at sea.  That alone would save 2-3% on consumption.  

What about the crew?  No longer will they slip on deck during high seas.  Nanotech paint that never gets wet thank you.  Ingestible chips swallowed by crew (would you do this?) will communicate data to the management office to ensure the crew members rest when required, are healthy.  The chips could even provide at-distance treatments.

Adamson says we should look forward to what he calls Futrenautics.  He predicts this martime future will be defined by The Sentient Ship, cyborg crews, shiptistics and business e-volution.  Just typing those words is fun.  But I won’t drill into this point today.  I’ll let Roger Adamson do that when he guest blogs with us here.  :-)

navigating now

Today an ideal approach is to put in place information communication systems that integrate land and sea components.  Our shipping customers are saying they require integrated business apps for needs such as remote intervention, crew entertainment and more.  In the past we were connecting sites, then connecting individuals, and now we can connect business applications.  However today many shipping companies are still stuck in phase one, connecting sites.

What will get them to cross the technology sea?  Peer pressure.  The shipping industry is known for its “me too” effect.  If shipping mogul A has X, then mogul B will want it too.  So now up to us to work with partners like Colombia Shipmanagement to make it happen.  And then much like a big cruise ship, degree by degree the industry will turn.  

The potential is for ships to become big data generators.  Imagine a ship at sea for months and its intelligence on emissions, cargo, crew, and systems data for starts.  With the right technology partner, some VSAT and a well-designed end-to-end project plan, the industry will get into ship-shape.

For more information about the shipping industry and what information communication technologies can contribute, click here

Digitally yours,


image © sergo77 -

Kate Bourdet

Hi, I'm heading up external digital comms for Orange Business.  Human-centered is my approach, and I hope this shines through in the blog content you read chez nous.  Looking forward to connecting with you in the comments section or @KateBo.