Steer­ing into Digital Waters

Like other in­dus­tries, ship­ping will need to em­brace tech­nol­ogy. Firms that don’t adopt new tech­nol­ogy risk be­com­ing ob­so­lete.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Special Review - CHEYENNE HOL­LIS

Mr An­dreas Sohmen-Pao, Chair­man of BW Group and the Singapore Mar­itime Foun­da­tion ad­mits that this is true, but it risks be­com­ing shal­low tru­ism.

“We must un­der­stand where new tech­nol­ogy can best be ap­plied,” Mr Sohmen-Pao noted. “It is im­por­tant when talk­ing about dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion to find a start­ing point. One is­sue to tackle or a spe­cific fo­cus that can be ad­dressed. You can’t do every­thing at the same time with­out end­ing up spread­ing your­self too thin. With one area in mind, you must then de­cide what can be done in-house and what must be out­sourced.”

Mr Sohmen-Pao pointed to how BW Group has in­vested in Al­pha Ori, a mar­itime digital so­lu­tions provider, to cre­ate a team that com­bines ship man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence and good tech­nol­ogy skills. BW Group had its in-house team fo­cus on up­grad­ing legacy IT sys­tems while em­pow­er­ing Al­pha Ori to do all blue-sky think­ing.

“We find that al­most every­thing will end up need­ing a part­ner or part­ners. In most cases, we just do not have the abil­ity or ca­pac­ity to do things en­tirely in-house,” Mr Sohmen-Pao said. “And even if we do, there are other is­sues that can arise when try­ing to do every­thing on our own.”

This is just one of the many chal­lenges firms in the mar­itime in­dus­try will need to ad­dress be­fore adopt­ing dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion.

“Another chal­lenge is de­cid­ing if you should use cen­tralised con­trol or trust front line,” Mr SohmenPao ex­plains. “We like the idea of cen­tralised con­trol, but we also need in­put from the front line teams. We need to strike the right bal­ance be­tween these two.”

With more mon­i­tor­ing and tasks now able to be done cen­trally, this cre­ates another prob­lem in the form of skill ero­sion. In some cases dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion will make cer­tain skills ob­so­lete, but that doesn’t mean they are un­nec­es­sary.

“We must avoid ero­sion of skills so if a com­puter or GPS fails, peo­ple are trained to re­spond,” Mr SohmenPao states. “If no one knows how to guide a ship with­out GPS, they will be in trou­ble if the sys­tem fails.”

Even with these chal­lenges, Mr Sohmen-Pao be­lieves this is one of the most ex­cit­ing times in the his­tory of the mar­itime in­dus­try.

“The most ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment in the mar­itime in­dus­try is self-cor­rect­ing ships or or au­tonomous ships. These are go­ing to dis­rupt the in­dus­try. There is some con­cern about this. It is scary to think about the loss of jobs that will come with this, but it will also ben­e­fit the in­dus­try a great deal,” Mr SohmenPao con­cludes.

PHOTO: NBAS/ALEX JANU PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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