Technological advances including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain applications, autonomous ships, drones and others have the potential to boost efficiency in the global shipping industry, says the 2018 edition of UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport.
Growth in demand for seaborne trade is running ahead of supply. Therefore, new technologies could introduce much-needed cost, time and environmental efficiencies.
Digitalization is a game changer
“Digitalization has the potential to add wind to the sails of global seaborne trade, if leveraged effectively,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
Blockchain technology can track cargo. They can also provide end-to end supply chain visibility. The technology can record information on vessels, including on global risks and exposures, integrate smart contracts and marine insurance policies, and digitize and automate paper filings and documents.
“Vessels and their cargo are becoming part of the Internet of Things by combining on-board systems and digital platforms.
“Developing countries will have to ensure that both, their IT and their transport systems, are prepared to connect to global logistics networks,” Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of the UNCTAD’s Division on Technology and Logistics, said.
Many technological advances are applicable in ports and terminals. They offer an opportunity for port stakeholders to innovate and generate additional value. These are in the form of greater efficiency, enhanced productivity, greater safety, and heightened environmental protection.
Concretely, digitalization can improve data availability to track and measure port performance for improved decision-making and planning. It can also improve efficiency, enhance productivity and increase the safety and environmental performance of ports.
In the light of these developments, ports and terminals worldwide need to re-evaluate their role in global maritime logistics. They have to prepare to effectively embrace and leverage digitalization-driven innovations and technologies.
But a key challenge will be to establish interoperability so that data can be exchanged seamlessly. At the same time, while ensuring cybersecurity and the protection of commercially sensitive as well as private data. This is in view of the recent European Union General Data Protection Regulation.
As for autonomous ships, in addition to safety, security, and cybersecurity concerns, fears may arise for the jobs of seafarers, the majority of whom come from developing countries, the report says.