Benefits of Digital Automation on the Marine Industry

calendar iconMay 10, 2023

Driving Digital Opportunities and Improved Performance for the Marine Industry

In recent years, the marine industry has seen a rapid increase in the use of cutting-edge digital automation to positively impact operations, navigation and engine systems. Technological advancements offer the industry the potential to achieve safer, more efficient operations and performance. However, with the persistence of the global pandemic, an undercurrent of mixed uncertainly for the industry continues to pervade.

Maritime stakeholders are navigating unsteady shipping economics – cancelled sailings, increased freight rates, a lack of trained crews and evolving regulations. Manufacturers idled as economies shut down and cargo ships continue to find themselves in the middle of tumultuous trading relationships with raw materials stuck in ports and vessels. With so much uncertainty, owners, operators and suppliers must hyperfocus on automation strategies to drive operational efficiencies, lower costs and streamline time to market.

Conventional automation technology, as well as new technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, 5G, analytics and digital twins are reshaping the industry and are ushering in new opportunities to achieve highly automated marine operations to drive efficiencies, reduce costs and accelerate time to market.

Implementing Automation To Facilitate Connectivity and Efficiency

Marine automation systems have become increasingly important to bring information and operational technology coverage together as one integrated platform to control ships and navigation systems. Digital companies are working to develop a software-as-a-service (SaaS) digital platform for global maritime logistics, leveraging cloud computing technologies with on-demand digital services. The objective of these platforms is to minimize vessel operational inefficiencies, improve sustainability efforts, safety and costs, and speed up insights to action. With these platforms integrated, many stakeholders in the industry will become digital platform system managers across sectors.

Across the shipping sector, automation is enabling more efficient ways of controlling ports and terminals, thus lowering costs. These automated ports and terminals, otherwise known as ‘smart ports,’ leverage integrated technologies to port traffic control and trade flows. Inventories, ship-to-shore cranes and port gates have seen seismic shifts in efficiencies. Cloud computing enables multiple machines to coordinate schedules and routes, eliminating overlap. Robotic stacking cranes and cargo handlers leverage IoT to carry containers to port, relay, communicate and classify information, minimizing human error.

Factoring in protocol and security practices, many ports are automating by using near field communication technology (NFC) for docking payments, exit and entry logs, and identity verification. By using the global positioning system and radio-frequency identification tags, marine stakeholders can immediately locate containers and vessels without losing time or resources, while helping organize and align communications with ports managing arrival, departure and berthing of ships.

Leveraging 5G To Enhance Communication and Safety

Global trade relies on the maritime industry, so strong communication channels and connectivity are paramount. With the evolution of maritime applications and their increasing demand for data, the introduction of 5G is the perfect enhancement. 5G enables massive connectivity, high throughput, ultra-low latency and super-fast speeds. Pairing it with various technologies provides owners, operators and suppliers with advancement and opportunity. For example, by pairing 5G with AI and multi-access edge computing (MEC), live footage enables maritime pilots the ability to analyze port cameras on the movement of every ship, bow to stern, ensuring safety and sustainability.

Utilizing AI To Empower Real-time Data

Within the vessel sector, AI and automation will launch autonomous ships, revolutionize ship design and operations, and redefine the global maritime industry with implications for builders, owners, operators and suppliers. Ships are being engineered with advanced technology data recorders, vessel sensors and monitors to collect and process real-time data, leveraging IoT tools and services. Integrating sensory input, real-time machine learning, analytics and a decision engine enables maritime stakeholders with the ability to collect and process data to identify equipment issues and predictive maintenance, and monitor vessel performance quickly and easily to mitigate disruption.

With data used to train machine learning models and integrate rule-based decisioning algorithms for the decision engine, the autonomous ship can navigate the ocean environment with no human intervention. This data also streamlines voyage earnings by helping ships pivot and navigate the safest and most fuel-efficient route, further supporting environmental expectations in relation to sustainability.

Because many marine accidents are caused by human error, the maritime industry is fully embracing the use of AI, as advanced algorithms and machine learning tools are being used to create AI-based predictive analytics positioning systems. Leveraging dynamic positioning technology will help navigators and shore managers monitor the future positioning of vessels, and improve situational awareness and safety.

Capitalizing on Digital Twinning To Improve Decision-Making

Digital twinning enhances decision-making, and develops standards for operations and strategic planning. A digital twin is a digital representation of an object or system updated using real-time data, and uses simulation, machine learning and reasoning to help make decisions. By specifying relevant parameters of an object or system, generic models of a situation can be tailored to a specific event to provide what-if analysis and support decision-making, providing countless benefits to the marine industry. For fleet operations, a digital twin could test scenarios for trade patterns and shipping fleets to determine cargo capacity and the most optimized route. Capturing historical, ongoing and predicted future trade with digital twinning enables ports and terminals to appropriately plan, coordinate and synchronize operations.

The evolution of automation is promising for the marine industry from driving efficiencies, safety, sustainability to reducing costs and providing a pathway to innovation and opportunity. Leveraging emerging technologies and data solutions in a more meaningful way will be key for owners, operators and suppliers to achieve digital success.

How We Can Help

At Cherry Bekaert Digital Advisory, we are constantly monitoring new innovations and digital technologies to support industries in helping them achieve their goals. Our team is comprised of strategists, technologists and analysts who have broad industry experience and keen business acumen. We facilitate important change in productive and cost-effective ways by helping companies predict outcomes with data and artificial intelligence, while adopting and applying relevant technologies to optimize performance.

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