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4 digital trends in the maritime industry

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A digitalisation wave has been sweeping across onshore industries, and now it has reached the maritime industry in full force. There is a myriad of strategic business benefits to be reaped by ship owners and managers, from operational efficiency improvements and cost reductions to environmental performance enhancements.

The digital momentum rapidly building within the maritime industry is set to transform shipping operations in the years to come.

Following is a look at four key digital trends taking centre stage in the maritime industry in 2019 and onwards.


1. IoT adoption enabling better ship and fleet operations

After years of lagging behind other sectors the maritime sector has begun widely adopting IoT.

Connecting onboard sensors to shore for data analytics will improve ship and fleet operations in multiple ways, such as optimised maintenance, cargo handling and route planning, savings in fuel and lubes consumption, and reduced service costs. Ships of the future will have an entire network of sensors measuring all aspects of operations.

Security concerns are a barrier to adoption of IoT, but leaders in maritime digitalisation are taking the necessary steps to safeguard their fleet from current and emerging threats and vulnerabilities.

Related post: The key to best practice maritime cybersecurity


2. Artificial intelligence optimising decision-making and safety

Artificial intelligence has many potential applications in the maritime industry, e.g. optimising business processes, voyage planning and vessel maintenance.

More and more forward-thinking shipping organisations see AI and machine learning as keys to achieving a competitive advantage. For instance, AI-based predictive positioning systems will enable ship masters and bridge teams to monitor and predict future positions, movements and manoeuvres of their vessel hours in advance, improving situational awareness, decision-making, and ultimately safety.


3. Robotics for complex tasks in complex environments

As ship operations are becoming ever more complex and sophisticated, robots are increasingly being used to support and perform tasks. According to the Global Marine Trends 2030 report, new types of robots for shipping will have advanced functions such as learning, handling cargo, and conducting inspections in hard-to-reach areas.

Other activities that can be carried out by autonomous robots are packing, delivering, firefighting, and hull cleaning.

Leveraging robotics in maritime operations, typically characterised by harsh weather conditions and environments, will undoubtedly improve efficiency and safety and lower costs as well as reduce the need for onboard manpower.


4. Unmanned vessels pushing tech boundaries

Vard is building the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship for YARA, to be named Yara Birkeland and delivered early next year. Yara Birkeland is one of several new initiatives within unmanned surface vessels designed to be remotely operated from shore. The benefits for maritime transport are obvious: lower crew and operational costs, and elimination of risk factors associated with human error.

Unmanned vessels will be a game changer for seaborne trade, as the absence of crews means that ships can spend much more time at sea than human-controlled ones. However, people will not be completely out of the loop just yet, as fully autonomous ships are still on the horizon. On the way there, we will have a combination of autonomy and remote control, with onshore operators monitoring the ship and intervening if it does not handle a situation on its own. 

Veronica Liverud Krathe, researcher in DNV GL's maritime research program, is clear on what is required to achieve remote control:

“Reliable machinery, bandwidth and data quality are prerequisites. We envision onshore control centres monitoring data from the engine rooms to a variety of ships – and other information from them – and aiding ships in need of aid.”

Thus, enabling reliable and secure internet connection is crucial.

From an innovation perspective, the push for autonomy in shipping is breaking new ground in digital technologies and solutions. This will result in safer, smarter and more efficient systems onboard the thousands of conventional cargo ships still on the move around the world for years to come.



Maritime digitalisation is driving cost reductions and new revenue streams. However, the most important outcome is arguably the value it brings to your customers and their end consumers.

Whether your customer base is made up of sports and apparel brands, automotive businesses, electronics manufacturers or agricultural producers, their criteria for choosing which carrier will bring their products to market are basically the same: They select the one that provides the leanest, greenest and most transparent end-to-end operations, helping them build consumer loyalty, one happy customer at a time.

The eco-conscious 16-year-old boy who is stoked about his brand new soccer shoes, just delivered on his doorstep in record time and with minimal carbon footprint, is made possible by ships that are becoming ‘floating computers’.

Vastly improved maritime connectivity, facilitated by ship-to-shore data services, is an enabler for the rush of digital opportunities that will make you as a ship owner or manager more competitive and better rigged for the market of the future.

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4 digital trends in the maritime industry
Written by Morten Lind-Olsen, CEO

Morten Lind-Olsen has been the CEO for Dualog since 1998, and he brings decades of international experience from the communications and software industry. Morten holds a degree in IT and Communications from the Arctic University, and he is renowned for his customer-driven leadership. Through technological innovations at sea, Morten and Dualog have constantly been aiming to bring ship and shore closer. The Dualog software solutions are currently onboard more than 5,000 ships worldwide, and Dualog has been a key contributor to the process of digitalisation within shipping.

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