Smart Ships Within a Decade


Smart ships are likely to be carrying cargoes within ten years but all in the logistics chain need to adapt in order to make good use of the new technology and the huge amount of data that will be available as a result, according to WISTA.

According to Sue Terpilowski, President of WISTA UK – the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association UK – shipping will go from a “poor beginning” in terms of generating and using data to be at the forefront of new technology. All thanks to customer demand.

Ms Terpilowski said the change would see “talking” ships within 10 years; “Even the paint will be able to tell you about the waves hitting the ship. These ships are going to be telling you about the weight and the stresses on deck when slow steaming would be appropriate and many more operational elements. There are many opportunities for the industry, but is it ready to take advantage?

 “Ship intelligence will be the driving force that will determine the future of the industry, the type of ships at sea and the competencies requires of tomorrow’s seafarers.”

Legislators, ship finance and service sectors will all need to make changes to cope with the advent of the smart ship and new skills will be required from operating companies. Technology is being developed that can be adapted to shipping operations and over the next five years Ms Terpilowski predicts that there will be machine to machine (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT) connectivity in logistics.

“The logistics sector wants transparency. As a smart ship to smart logistics means reduced inventory and production lines running at optimum levels. This allows two way planning – intelligent buying and customer services that combine articles from different sources.”

She sees the major benefits as:

  • Safety, security and quality of cargo
  • Cost effective utilisation of containers and equipment
  • More efficient logistics networks and infrastructure
  • Real time tracking, monitoring and control of intermodal shipments
  • Special benefits for reefer cargoes

Although the vessels will include a high level of automation, Ms Terpilowski doesn’t believe they will be without personnel onboard, although the smart ship will provide a safer working environment. The role of the seafarer may well be transferred ashore and the skills needed to operate vessels safely and efficiently will change.
Huge amounts of data will be available from smart ships and she predicts more opportunities for women in roles in the shipping industry; “There will be a change in the way individuals work with much more highly skilled people. There will need to be planning for better training and the industry will have a different way of working.
Where will these new thinkers come from? Who is good at this sort of thinking and at sciences – women. This is a golden opportunity for women to progress further in shipping.”

PTI also recently reported on the plans by Rolls-Royce and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland to build smart vessels.

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