Shipowners and managers need to drive the industry’s digitalisation efforts to get what they need, instead of what suppliers say they should have.
Vessel owners should be in control of their own digital strategies and future investments, but there is every likelihood that technology suppliers will dictate developments and terms.
There has, however, been a considerable leap in digitalisation developments in maritime over the last year.
During 2019, the focus in the industry will be on adopting digitalisation using existing and more advanced satellite communications for shipping, to improve operational efficiency, communications and transparency for shipowners and operators. This will be attained if shipowners are in command of how digitalisation technology is adopted and not dictated to by suppliers.
This potential clash was highlighted by Wilhelmsen Ship Management president and chief executive Carl Schou in his New Year online address. He said there has been a quantum leap within this field in shipping and that there will be numerous benefits.
However, he called on shipowners and operators to lead digitalisation developments and technology demands. Otherwise he expects the industry will get into “a situation where the blind lead the deaf.”
If this is allowed to happen, then ships will be equipped with plenty of technology that shipowners do not need and shipmanagers are unable to utilise to achieve the efficiency benefits promised from digitalisation solutions.
Wallem Group chief executive Frank Coles called on technology vendors to develop digitalisation solutions that owners and managers can use. Technology that meets owner requirements and solves real operational problems. He wants to see more integrated and interactive solutions from suppliers.
In his online comment Mr Coles said technology solutions are being wasted in the maritime industry because vendors and manufacturers do not solve the right problems. He highlighted how technology is offered in small pieces and that suppliers are often unable to demonstrate the operational benefits.
One answer to this quandary is for technology providers to become more integrated partners with shipowners and shipmanagers, with some form of risk-and-reward element to contracts.
Owner-vendor partnerships will generate more effective and focused digitalisation technology that addresses the dilemmas faced by shippers.
These partnerships will deliver technology for the future that is robust, effective, and most importantly, meets the requirements and compliance of shipping companies and the industry.
To ensure this occurs, owners need to be more proactive in adopting digitalisation and more forthcoming with their requirements.
Vendors need to have a greater understanding of the real purpose of their technology and how it can be adapted by shipping companies to solve their issues.
Together owners and suppliers can generate real solutions and technology that will be fit-for-purpose and dedicated to maritime requirements in 2019 and in the following decade.