Is smart ship­ping THE Fu­ture of THE in­dus­try?

Group CEO of Gulf­tainer, Mr. Peter Richards dis­cusses the progress of us­ing smart tech­nol­ogy within the ship­ping in­dus­try

Logistics News Middle East - - Shipping -

Ship­ping is step­ping into a new era where smart tech­nol­ogy and ad­vanced data an­a­lyt­ics are start­ing to be­come the norm. Changes are tak­ing place in such a short time push­ing de­ci­sion mak­ers to act faster. The in­dus­try is go­ing through a pe­riod of tran­si­tion from the old tra­di­tional ver­sion of the ship­ping in­dus­try to a more dig­i­tally ad­vanced one where the main driv­ers are the ac­cess and process of Big Data, au­to­ma­tion, In­ter­net of Things and lim­it­less con­nec­tiv­ity.

Even though this is the case ship­ping revo­lu­tions gen­er­ally take their time, creep­ing up on un­sus­pect­ing ship own­ers who just want to get on with manag­ing ships and mov­ing cargo.

Mr. Peter Richard, Group CEO, Gulf­tainer, de­scribes why the idea of mov­ing to­wards smart ship­ping will take its time, “Smart ship­ping is a painstak­ing process that de­mands ad­e­quate time to come into be­ing, mostly due to the range and di­ver­sity of the stake­hold­ers in­volved. Whereas, the avail­abil­ity of tech­nol­ogy and skills is also rel­a­tively low, with many in­no­va­tions still un­der­go­ing test­ing. On the other hand, the shift to­ward new tech­nol­ogy re­quires col­lab­o­ra­tion, which again is a com­plex process. How­ever, a joint ef­fort to ed­u­cate the stake­hold­ers about the ben­e­fits of change is cru­cial to achiev­ing the best re­sults.”

The de­bate of whether any com­pany should go fully au­to­mated or semi-au­to­mated car­ries on but Mr. Richard be­lieve there needs to be a bal­ance when it comes to mak­ing these de­ci­sions.

“As we have seen across ev­ery in­dus­try, au­to­ma­tion is a dou­ble-edged sword. On one

hand, it re­duces or re­places cer­tain man­ual func­tions used in legacy pro­cesses. On the other hand, au­to­ma­tion cre­ates new roles which re­quire new skills to be learned by the work­force. So, the ar­gu­ment that au­to­ma­tion only re­places and causes job losses is not cor­rect. Im­ple­men­ta­tion of the smart ship must run hand in hand with the hu­man di­men­sion be­cause new roles and com­pe­ten­cies will be re­quired for smart ships, along­side the up­scal­ing of ex­ist­ing job roles,” ex­plained Mr. Richard.

“We in­tend to adopt a hy­brid of full au­to­ma­tion and semi-au­to­ma­tion at Gulf­tainer. For ex­am­ple, when it comes to health & safety and qual­ity pro­to­cols, we will work to­wards full au­to­ma­tion. How­ever, where ef­fi­cien­cies are con­sid­ered and hu­man in­ter­ven­tion is key, we would fa­vor semi-au­to­ma­tion,” Mr. Richards added.

When asked about what changes Mr. Richard has seen in the ship­ping in­dus­try over the last few years, his an­swer is sim­i­lar to what most in­dus­tries are go­ing through; merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions are on the rise:

“This is the age of mega-ships. As we have seen in the past few years, the big­gest im­pact of post-pana­max ships has per­haps been the string of al­liances be­tween ship­ping com­pa­nies, ren­der­ing many fringe op­er­a­tors that were once be­he­moths to go out of busi­ness,” re­marked Mr. Richard

This is largely true, and with this re­struc­tur­ing of ship­ping lines comes the chal­lenges for ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tors, many of whom, even to­day, are not equipped to ac­com­mo­date these larger ves­sels and more cargo, all while main­tain­ing or im­prov­ing op­er­a­tional per­for­mance.

“The knock-on ef­fect of ul­tra large con­tainer ves­sels (UCL), which cur­rently stand at the 18,000+ TEU lev­els and are only set to grow in the next five to 10-year pe­riod, has prompted many ter­mi­nals around the world to find the most ef­fec­tive way to process the sub­stan­tial in­crease in cargo while manag­ing the cost.”

Whilst con­tainer han­dling equip­ment has un­der­gone sev­eral en­hance­ments in re­sponse to this trend, the most widely ac­cepted re­sponse is to adopt process au­to­ma­tion or semi­au­toma­tion across port/ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tions.

“Ports are com­pet­ing to adopt the new gen­er­a­tion of tech­nolo­gies (ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, the blockchain, IOT) to dig­i­tize and au­to­mate pro­cesses, in a bid to of­fer car­ri­ers pric­ing ben­e­fits and faster ser­vices. With the in­ter­net and as­so­ci­ated hard­ware be­ing com­modi­tised, more and more play­ers are mov­ing to­wards ebased op­er­a­tions and are will­ing to make B2B con­nects for more in­te­grated and cen­tral op­er­at­ing plat­forms,” added Mr. Richard.

Changes like this meant that Gulf­tainer had to make the nec­es­sary changes to com­pete in this ever-chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment. “We have con­sis­tently strived to be ahead of the curve of global ship­ping trends, as demon­strated by our dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion strat­egy. With in-house ini­tia­tives such as our ‘Per­for­mance Ex­cel­lence’ pro­gram, Em­power, and the ‘Ter­mi­nal Part­ner­ing’ col­lab­o­ra­tion projects with our cus­tomers. With ad­vanced soft­ware and tech­nol­ogy in place, Gulf­tainer has re­mained ready to wel­come these mega ves­sels to our fa­cil­i­ties, en­abling us to of­fer more e-ser­vices, which min­i­mizes the de­lays of query­ing and pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion in the legacy man­ual for­mat.”

Gulf­tainer’s newly en­hanced dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture en­sures that op­er­a­tions can be ad­justed and eval­u­ated for ef­fi­ciency. It pro­vides re­al­time com­put­ing power to help op­er­a­tors keep up with a large amount of cargo en­ter­ing and leav­ing ports on mega ships, while mak­ing sure that con­tain­ers are un­loaded and loaded with­out a hitch, in the short­est turn­around time.

This is where up­skilling be­comes cru­cial, call­ing for train­ing pro­grams that fac­tor in more cog­ni­tive el­e­ments within the non-au­to­mated roles, thereby re­duc­ing the fo­cus on phys­i­cal la­bor. Data and an­a­lyt­ics, for ex­am­ple, should em­power mariners to per­form bet­ter in their roles.

Mr. Richard’s con­cluded, “No­tably, less than five per cent of con­tainer vol­ume has been re­port­edly man­aged by fully au­to­mated ter­mi­nals in the past two years, demon­strat­ing the slow pace at which this trend is catch­ing on. The key take­away here is that as ev­ery­thing gets con­nected and in­te­grated, col­lab­o­ra­tion, en­gage­ment and ed­u­ca­tion and even the buyin of in­volved peo­ple and teams be­come a de­facto suc­cess fac­tor.”

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