iContainers: More Automation to Come in 2019


Online freight forwarder iContainers has predicted that the maritime industry will continue its automation innovation in 2019 while it tries to overcome geo-political and economic uncertainty.

According to the Barcelona-based digital forwarder, automation in the shipping industry will continue, even if it happens on a relatively small scale.

“We will undoubtedly see more automation throughout the industry this year,” says Klaus Lysdal, Vice President, iContainers.

“By and large, it will be in small pieces of the chain here and there. It's more a matter of what individual companies can automate in their processes than anything overall that's going to majorly change the industry, at least in 2019.



“But there is more automation coming. Whether it's with the terminals, carriers, warehouses, truckers or forwarders, it is happening.”

However, the industry is likely to face the same incertitude in 2019 as it did in 2018, the US-China trade war, IMO 2020 and Brexit creating 12 months of uncertainty.

iContainers, in particular, points out the trade war and Brexit as potential obstacles to growth, as both are facing important deadlines in the first quarter of the year and neither appear close to being resolved.

A recent Port Technology technical paper looked at the future of smart investment, automation and IoT

The US-China trade war has so far seen approximately US $400 billion placed on goods and this has led to international bodies issuing warnings over the state and future performance of the global economy.

However, in December 2018, at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the US and China announced a 90 ceasefire and promised not to place any fresh tariffs while they negotiated trade talks.      



The ceasefire is due to expire on March 1, 2019, and if no trade deal is agreed then duties of 10-25% will be placed on $200 billion worth of goods.

“Expect the shipping industry to keep close tabs on the trade war,” says Lysdal.

“These are, after all, the two biggest trade partners in the world with a huge potential to impact the global shipping capacity. Many US companies struggled with the first round of tariffs but hopefully, we will see some mitigation that can allow them to recover.”

As well as Brexit, which is due to come into effect on March 29, 2019, with no withdrawal agreement yet struck between Britain and the EU, the IMO’s upcoming regulations on sulphur emissions are also causing carriers and port authorities to innovate and explore ways of complying.

“I expect 2019 to be a transition year as carriers and the shipping industry as a whole prepare for the IMO 2020 regulations,” Lysdal continues.

“Usually, we see a number of different approaches from one carrier to another when there are major regulatory changes happening. But so far it looks like the same pattern as everyone tries to put their plans into action.”

Port Technology will be publishing an e-Journal in March 2019 focused on exponential technologies such as the Internet of Things.

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