Digitalizing Maritime Business Singapore-Finland discussion

Finland 100 and the city of Helsinki jointly put focus on digitalization in the maritime business on Wednesday 20 September, hosting an all-day event for stakeholders in the field. The aim of the event was to create new strategic partnerships between Finland and Singapore to take advantage of the new digital opportunities in the industry.

The event was split into two sessions, where the first consisted of three individual presentations, giving insights into how data-driven maritime business is designed, followed by small group conversations, all focusing on different cases within the theme. The second session focused on how future shipping is co-created between different actors, following discussions in groups. Overall, the event gave the participants a chance to talk about the issues and future their business is facing on a very concrete level.

Designing data-driven maritime business
In the first session, Steve Fletcher, AXSMarine, got into the topic of common datasets and tools, when it comes to driving efficiency and commercial chartering standards. He reasoned the efficiency of having all in one solutions that gives you automatic updates on vessels and cargoes directly via your e-mail.

A question from Maria Hartikainen, senior business advisor, Helsinki Business Hub, was: “When it comes to the maritime business – do you think it is digitalize or die?” Fletcher argued yes, saying that after the financial crisis the shipping industry was at a definite low point in 2008 but that it experienced growth the following five years, claiming that it was due to the beginning of making more tasks efficient by using digitalization. “However, this does not mean getting rid of people, it just means making it all more efficient,” Fletcher said.

In the same session, Markus Laurinen from the company Rolls-Royce talked about the idea of a ‘one sea ecosystem’ and the autonomous commercial traffic in 2025. Capt. Mohit Batra, regional manager, Eniram Singapore Pte Ltd, also presented next-generation performance monitoring; going from reactive to proactive data analytics.

Group discussion on security and communications
Four different cases were being discussed in smaller groups. One of which were about security and communications. The discussion ranged from both physical security to cyber security. With digitalization, the crews on the vessels get smaller and are therefore arguably more vulnerable for pirate attacks, which increases need for physical security. On top of the Maersk hacking this summer, the topic of cyber security also got very real. However, many participants found that not a lot of people in the industry are actually aware of the dangers that come with outdated computer systems which are quite open for hackers to access. The need for diode transactions, where data only goes one way is important, the participants agreed.

Another issue that was voiced is the provision of data on board, which secures long distance communications. That was something David Clutterbuck works with in the company KNL Networks, where they deliver data through old radios that operates on high-frequency band, enabling long-distance communication and global coverage. Overall, the group agreed that vessels are behind when it comes to security. In terms of physical security, they thought Singapore might be a bit advanced, whereas Finland is more advanced when it comes to cyber security.

Co-creating future shipping
After the break, Chin Guan from Kalmar Global/Cargotec talked about the use of robots and artificial intelligence in container terminals. The technology is not new, but used in new ways to increase safety and make the job more efficient, Chin Guan explained. On the deck of a harbour, magnets shuffle the carriers that are equipped with magnet rulers. Radars, spreader sensors, encoder for angle and rotation, and an obstacle detector in front are also features on the carriers, making transporting and positioning of containers exact. Everything transmits through wireless communications to a simple remote control desk far away from the actual work.

Marko Rapeli from the Digitalist Group finished of the presentations, talking about co-creation within maritime. “Technology is ‘just’ a vehicle,” he said, “Creating technological solutions for the sake of technology is meaningless.” It should only be incorporated into a business if it makes sense, if it will increase growth, efficiency, and there is a need for it.

“We need to involve people. Co-creation is actually eco-system thinking.” Rapeli pointed out that when it comes to digitalizing an area of a business, you need to start with the community in the centrr – what is it that we all want, why do we want it, what should the outcome bring of improvement – that should be answered before starting the process of digitalizing.

Group discussion on digitalizing business
In the last session of cases, the topic of ‘digitalizing business’ was one of which, in terms of digitalizing in maritime, the participants agreed that ship loading is further ahead in Singapore, than in Finland and Europe, where the majority of tasks are still done manually. Nevertheless, digitalization is not always just the solution for everything. An example was made, where a Finnish company, Fonecta, created an app that was like a digital phone book, so people did not have to call the call centre, which they wanted to avoid. The app was tremendously popular in Finland, but it was not producing enough money, making it bad for the company. With digital innovations, you should have both consumers and the company in mind otherwise it makes no sense. It was also emphasized that it might not be all areas within a company that should be digitalized, so it is important to be sceptical in that sense – “Don’t just to do it, it has to make and improvement of some kind” Tom Hogg, regional director, Digitalist Group, said.

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