Frank Coles, CEO, Wallem, sees digittalisation as the tools that will help ship management become more innovative service providers, but suggestions that standardisation should prevail.
The future is modern. The future is digital. But is the shipping industry just getting up to date rather than setting new standards in what is deemed as the digitalisation of the industry, writes Samantha Fisk.
Ship managers and owners are at the coalface when it comes to the “digitalisation” of the industry, they are the ones that need to implement the new technologies coming on to the market, whilst keeping in-line with regulations and most importantly staying within budget. But, is the shipping industry taking the right perspective on the new revolution that has been termed the ‘digitalisation of the shipping industry’?
Frank Coles, CEO, Wallem doesn’t think so, he opines that the shipping industry is merely modernising and the technology that is coming on to the market is part of that modernisation.
“There’s not been any digitalisation, but we are seeing a lot of modernisation in the industry through equipment coming on to the market, EIP (enterprise information portals) and weather systems and machine monitoring”, he says.
The tools that are coming on to the industry will help the competencies of all that use them and will aid ship managers in monitoring vessels and also crew and their operations. The key element in today’s data rich environment, is how to harness the data and extract the relevant information that the client/ owner needs to better run their business. Coles believes that to get true digitalisation there needs to be standardisation.
“For us we are focused on the standardisation of the tools that we use and developing our systems around them. We don’t customise as we believe that goes against what standardisation is about and to develop in house is a mistake, so we look to bring in outside help. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel”, Coles explains about Wallem’s own strategy towards digitalisation.
Big data has become a buzz word in the industry over the years and for many harnessing and extracting the information that it can provide has been the challenge for many. Many companies are now looking at how this data can be used and service a purpose for the marine industry. Wallem sees the potential that can be found in extracting the right data and the value that it can add to customers.
The competency comes from the suppliers that provide the technology to the industry to be able to extract this data. Coles highlights that: “competency comes from companies outside the industry. It [data extracted] greatly enhances the picture of what is going on. The data may be owned by the customer, but Wallem can bring value with what they can do with the data.”
Being able to access this data will also open up market opportunities notes Coles in that third-party ship management companies will be able to move forward to become “more innovative service providers”. He also opines that with access to this information will also allow for better understanding of regulations, de-risking and giving more transparency in the industry.
Challenges still lay ahead for the industry that has been said to have been slow to react to the recent developments of new technologies. One of the main challenges is the “doubters and the dinosaurs”, as Coles calls those opposed to the change that the new technologies bring. They will be hard to overcome, “they don’t fully appreciate the power of technology and data. They have to keep going around and round doing the same thing”, he says. However, he also warns that “If they don’t adapt then they will disappear.”
Looking to the horizon of shipping, yes there will be changes in job roles explains Coles, but “has a pilots’ job changed over all the years that there’s been flying?”, he adds. Noting that today we still have pilots, but with the technology that planes now have today where-by they are able to fly themselves; the pilot is becoming more of a safety feature to oversee that the software functions as it should.
Cole highlights that roles in the maritime industry will change and adapt the digital solutions that are being integrated making both crew and shore-based teams more integrated. Coles explains that how roles are already changing in that: “the younger generation want something that is more meaningful, the roles may change but the knowledge will not.”
“The tools are a method of increasing people’s competency, where we see roles moving from a ‘doing’ role to more monitoring, from data entry to entry to analysis and sharing that information from ship to shore”, he adds.
Crews in future will have a dual role with the technology that they work with, having systems that will allow them to connect and will also mean that they will be able to use the machinery better, due to the familiarisation of the technology for the generation of crew that is now entering the maritime industry Coles explains.