Digitalisation is changing the face of cargo and load handling operations – and central to the creation of value from the force of digitalisation is industry collaboration. It is essential for the continued development of container shipping.
It is now possible to prove the value of investing in digitalised cargo handling operations, and there is even greater scope for achieving return on investment with collaboration, as our recent webinar – MacGregor: Separating fact from fiction – showed. But gaining this added value is really only possible when ship operators, equipment suppliers and vendors are all working together.
MacGregor vice president Denis Mol, summed the point up succinctly. “It all starts with collaboration,” he said.
The reason collaboration is so crucial is that shared data enables digital advances within cargo loading operations. Solutions providers and shipping lines have to share information and data to optimise cargo handling.
Data sharing like this requires trust, and trust must be built. But the outcomes are clearly worth it.
Hapag-Lloyd senior director, fleet support center Jörn Springer offered a very tangible example during the webinar to highlight how collaboration and data sharing have made a beneficial impact on his compapny’s cargo handling operations.
When Hapag-Lloyd moved some chartered ships to different trade-lanes, where a completely different cargo mix is loaded in a partnership that included MacGregor, the carrier changed the lashing pattern to load more cargo and so gained additional revenue. During the webinar, Mr Springer underscored the importance of the importance of having a “very collaborative approach” to solving a problem.
As an early mover in deploying digitalisation to reduce fuel inefficiencies and optimise the loading of cargo, Hapag-Lloyd is able to show a financial return from its efforts. The payback created by its fleet support centre – which heads up the company’s move to digitise cargo operations – is considerable, sustainable and increasing in line with the degree of collaboration over recent years.
Being able to prove a measurable financial return will help to convince other shipowners and operators to invest in digitalising cargo and load handing operations, which can only encourage more technical and data breakthroughs across the maritime industry.
Ideally, these successes should result in a cycle of positive reinforcement, building further trust, more collaboration and creating more cost-savings and revenue building opportunities within the sector. And there is still much more scope for data to optimise cargo handling operations.
As an added measure to encourage investment, our webinar explored the importance of creating new financial models such as performance-related contracts. Again, there is risk involved and calculated risk-taking requires a degree of trust. So, if these models are to be established and to work properly, then they need the foundation of a close partnership between both parties.
And, of course, these case studies in collaboration bring up the subject of broader, industry-wide collaboration.
As Mr Mol said, to digitise cargo handling as a whole, requires access to information on a far larger scale. To reach that level of data sharing, requires collaboration both within the cargo handling sector and without. External industries need to be brought in along with their experts, including data analysts and algorithm software providers.
Data ownership is another problem to be overcome to allow digitalisation of cargo handling to meet its full potential. Mr Springer explained that commercial and legal frameworks are being used in an attempt to overcome obstacles to data use. I personally believe the wider container ship industry move of creating common standards via the Digital Container Shipping Association will help break down such obstacles.
Asked about the biggest misconception when it comes to digitalising cargo operations, Mr Springer said “The biggest fiction is that you purchase a silver bullet to all your problems.”
I totally agree. There is no silver bullet. Companies working together to identify problems, and then using the technology in the right way, is what will drive forward the digitalisation of cargo and load handling processes.