Dec 2017


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Navis’ chief technology officer (CTO) has identified the top technology trends in the ocean shipping sector that he views as having the greatest impact in 2018 and beyond.

Developments picked out by Raj Gupta, who also gave his thoughts on the role he views these factors playing in the future, included the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, blockchain, machine learning (ML), drones and sensors.

Mr Gupta identified automation as the first key trend, predicting that the move towards automation and an autonomous supply chain would accelerate.

The chief technology officer said that 2018 will see experimental sailing of completely autonomous container vessels, beginning with smaller container ships, where fully-remote monitoring would eventually be in place.

He predicted that by the middle of this century, there could be a fully-autonomous transport chain “that could extend from robots filling a container, to automated cranes loading and stowing the container itself, to autonomous sailing of vessels all the way to the container’s destination, unloading by automated quay cranes and then finally the container being loaded onto autonomous trucks and trains for its destination”.

Next, Mr Gupta picked out drones as a top technology development, saying that drone technology was “evolving at an amazing pace” and that various military branches were already experimenting with using drones to transport containers.

“On a smaller scale the use of drones for, say, lashing of containers on a vessel instead of manual labour is not too hard to imagine,” he said.

IoT/sensors constituted the third trend highlighted by the Navis CTO, who said that more and more utilisation of sensors and IoT in the shipping industry would aid in data capturing across various cargo handling equipment and machinery.

“With the help of Business Intelligence and ML, this data can be and will be mined to improve cargo handling, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and other intelligent services and solutions,” he explained.

ML was the fourth development identified, with Mr Gupta saying it “holds a lot of promise for the shipping industry”.

“Whether it is automation, autonomous supply chain, forecasting models, stowage planning, yard planning, optimising port operations etc, ML will play an important role,” he said, noting that multiple open source ML frameworks are already readily available for use.

Finally, Mr Gupta identified blockchain as a major technology trend in ocean shipping, noting that while a lot could be done to digitise paper-based information flow in shipping and online network collaboration systems and other solutions were doing this, applying blockchain to all this appeared like “a solution looking for a problem”.