Digitalisation and data were listed as major forces – both disruptive and enabling – in a wide-ranging report on the challenges facing the maritime sector between the sulphur cap’s 2020 implementation and IMO’s 2050 deadline for the industry to at least halve its greenhouse gas emissions.
An industry panel convened to respond to the report – a poll of 53 respondents across the shipping supply chain – drew together a vision of a post-2020 future where digitalisation would help to solve the problems created by regulation while also aiding its enforcement.
As the fuels landscape becomes more technically complex, Columbia Shipmanagement fleet manager Christian Obst said digitalisation is “the only way” to find optimal solutions to the added complexity.
“There are a whole lot of open questions [beyond] 2020,” he said. “We need more fuel analysis, and then we will have to also change the maintenance strategy for ships.”
Ultimately, Mr Obst said, “We have to … through analysis, for maintenance, create models that can [better] predict the maintenance [needs] of engines.”
Along with benefits, however, there were those on the panel who foresaw digitalisation bringing increased monitoring and public scrutiny.
The Strategy Works managing director Michael Herson, who presented the study at day one of Riviera Maritime Media's Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference in Amsterdam, said new micro-satellite technology would enable long-range and real-time monitoring of the global fleet by anyone who could access the data, spelling, he said, “the end of the wild west in shipping”.
And The Strategy Works senior consultant Mikael Troberg pointed out the fundamental difference was in access to data.
“I think what is different in this compared to what we are used to, is that normally we have requirements – fuels that we use or discharge from scrubbers – that involves an interaction within IMO and floats down to the governments to pass on [and enforce] the requirements,” he said.
“But in this case, this data is going to be available to anyone who wants it ... it’s a completely different way of looking into emissions,” he said.
Mr Obst said current monitoring and enforcement trends supported the prediction.
“The monitoring is increasing by the port states. Everybody knows what’s happening in the United States if the Coast Guard comes on board. The European Union is installing sniffers around Europe under bridges and when vessels pass, they can tell how much sulphur you are burning. Monitoring and digitalisation is getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
“With the satellites … the public is always watching us and we have to be aware of that.”