Feb 2017

The Move to Digitise


Digitalisation is affecting all aspects of container shipping.

The importance of digitisation and automation will continue to gather momentum and will have a considerable impact on container shipping according to a new book, Liner Shipping 2025 – How to survive and thrive, by Lars Jensen, chief executive and founder of SeaIntelligence Consulting.

Dr Jensen’s book says: “Essentially, digitisation is not about IT. It is about fundamental business processes and models. Without this baseline, IT projects will yield sub-standard results at best, and fail at worst.

“Digitisation and automation will further drive commoditisation on many trade lanes, shifting the competitive differentiator away from being able to ship cargo and onto being able to help customers when exceptions occur.”

The recent raft of software and big data solutions shows the importance of the digitalisation trend.

Class society DNV GL has launched Veracity – a digital platform that promises to unlock the potential of big data.

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, chief executive of DNV GL’s maritime business, told a select group of journalists at a London media briefing that this was part of DNV GL’s efforts to modernise class. “We are entering a new and accelerated phase, and launching data platform Veracity, to unlock the potential of big data,” he said.

DNV GL’s “digital roadmap to modernise class” also includes pilot schemes for drone surveys and remote inspections, including smart phone based solutions and a wearable camera system that is tailor-made for inspection tanks.

Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen said: “We see digitalisation as fulfilling our purpose to safeguard life, property and the environment.”

He explained that the major aims of Veracity include helping the maritime industry to improve its profitability and to explore new business models through digitalisation. The Veracity industry data platform is designed to help companies improve data quality and manage the ownership, security, sharing and use of data. DNV GL said: “By creating frictionless connections between data owners and users, the platform will create new opportunities for improving ship performance and safety, while at the same time reducing operational costs.”

Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen told journalists at the briefing that the digital platform will lead to a host of benefits, including

  • predictive maintenance,
  • performance forecasting,
  • energy efficiency,
  • bunker optimisation,
  • real-time strategy performance, and
  • optimised chartering decisions.

Veracity has been built in collaboration with Microsoft Azure.

In another development, Interschalt Maritime Systems’ StowMan stowage planning software is to be connected to XVELA’s cloud-based vessel stowage collaboration platform for ocean carriers and terminal operators. This is expected to lead to a host of advantages.

Scott Holland, product management vice president for Navis, which now owns the StowMan brand, told Container Shipping & Trade: “StowMan, together with the XVELA collaboration platform, provides a unique value proposition to carriers and terminals. While StowMan provides the most accurate stability results and lashings calculations, as well as the most advanced stowage planning optimisation features for the carrier, XVELA now connected to StowMan offers a comprehensive, cloud-based collaboration platform and network for ocean carriers and terminals to share information, and provides a new level of efficiency for our customers.”

The Navis-Interschalt ‘ecosystem’ is particularly important given the growing use of ultra large container vessels (ULCVs).

“ULCVs add a huge amount of data on the carrier side, and operational pressure on the terminal side. Manually planning thousands of containers for a single port of call would take many hours for a single solution alone – never mind multiple replans and the need to optimise vessel utilisation. With a world-class stowage planning solution set from Navis, this drops to a matter of a few hours for the whole process. As we complete our roadmap for stowage optimisation it could be measured in minutes,” Mr Holland said.

And for terminals, the benefits of the system will help with the increased complexity of berth and yard planning that ULCVs bring.

Homing in on the cost benefits, he said: “Consider the increase in revenue for one of the top three carriers, if they are able to load even 1 per cent more cargo twice a year for every vessel managed. When you think about it in those terms, having the best stowage planning system on the market and the opportunity to engage in collaborative stowage planning with the terminals at which you call is an absolute must.”

XVELA, which is backed by Navis, has been tried out in 17 pilots with five top carriers and 12 terminal partners, covering around 50 vessels and 50 terminal locations for approximately 2.5 million containers. And there are plans to develop both XVELA and StowMan further. Mr Holland said: “We are steadily executing a roadmap of further developments across the full suite in a co-ordinated fashion. We are constantly improving and adding functionality.”

He singled out the fact that the company had recently added a super allocation module to StowMan as a subset of its larger StowMan[s] optimiser. This allows the automatic placement of containers by the super allocation module within the areas allocated by the user. Mr Holland said: “This gives a large time advantage compared to manual stowage. It also enables the planner to change and interchange cargo between different loading sections faster, to analyse different loading options.”

Elsewhere, carrier and shipper compliance with the new verified gross mass (VGM) regulations that came into effect last year has been assisted by electronic VGM solutions, such as that launched by CargoSmart. Its platform offers shippers and their designated submission parties multiple channels to submit the VGM to their carriers. “By offering free VGM solutions with multiple submission channels and a dashboard, CargoSmart helps shippers and other shipment parties minimise changes to their existing shipping execution processes, control costs for complying with the new requirements, and provide clear visibility of submission status,” a company spokesperson told Container Shipping & Trade.

“CargoSmart’s VGM solution is free of charge to both carriers and shippers, which helps them to control the cost of complying with the new VGM requirements. Our solutions let shippers submit the VGM information to ocean carriers flexibly and on time to comply with the new requirements. Our solution helps shippers and logistics service providers manage their multiple-carrier shipments through multiple channels flexibly, including on line, EDI [electronic data interchange], and mobile platforms. Shippers can self-file or designate a third party to provide the VGM or to submit the VGM on their behalf. They can also monitor VGM submission status through online dashboard and email notifications.”

Freight rate platform CargoSphere has launched its electronic smart upload and diagnostics solution, eSUDS, that enables ocean carriers, through an automated, digital framework, to distribute freight rates to their freight forwarder customers online in real-time.

CargoSphere executive vice president Harry Sangree told Container Shipping & Trade: “Ocean carriers traditionally input rates in their own internal systems and then e-mail their freight forwarders these rates. But this is where the problems begin. Forwarders use multiple carriers for each trade and have rates from all these carriers in different layouts. How can they compare rates when all the rate formats are different and not comparable?”

Furthermore, forwarders will not receive these rates for between 24 and 48 hours. “It is a highly volatile market, so the rates are obsolete when the forwarder gets them. When rates change sometimes as often as three times a week, the forwarder needs to know current rates to know what to do. The old e-mail system does not work in this respect. It is too unwieldly,” Mr Sangree added.

ESUDS solves these issues with its single digital platform for the distribution of ocean rates and tariffs. This confidential, collaborative process immediately provides customers with visibility of new or amended rates thus delivering a more efficient and timely process for this traditionally complex, time consuming and costly aspect of ocean shipping.

United Arab Shipping Co (UASC) piloted the system in 2016 with SEKO and was able to reduce processing time from between 48 and 96 hours to 4-6 hours. When customers receive updated rates directly into their system it means the rates are always accurate and are available for immediate use, which helps to stimulate business for carriers.

Two other major carriers are currently piloting the system. Mr Sangree said that he hopes to have an announcement soon about carriers signing up to the system.