The world has witnessed more technological advancements in the last decade than the whole of 20th century. The 21st century was kicked off with the internet revolution followed by the vast reach of mobile/portable connected devices. The world is currently witnessing a new revolution of sorts, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics are a few of the new emerging technologies.
“Has the maritime industry kept up with these technological changes?”, “Would adopting these new technologies help the maritime industry?”. Most experts believe that the maritime industry has not been able to keep up with the technological advances and it would certainly help the industry if they are adopted.
The maritime industry has come a long way in the last 15-20 years. Ships have integrated automation in their operations. From complete manual operation of machinery and navigation, ships can now navigate on auto pilot and machinery can operate without manual interaction. This has been possible with integration of hundreds of sensors/controllers for operation machinery automatically and integration of GPS signals, electronic charts and auto pilot for navigating the vessel.
Still there are some of the new technologies that can help the maritime industry to increase its efficiency and ultimately help realise the dream of a completely un-manned vessel.
- Internet of Things (IoT) and Automation – Crew on-board ships carry out large number of routine and mundane jobs which takes up most of their time. If these jobs are automated, it will help the crew to focus on more important jobs. This will also help in improving the efficiency of the vessel and improve the quality of tasks done on-board. Ships are already fitted with hundreds of sensors with the help of which the ship can be operated with minimum human interaction. If more and more tasks are automated with the help of more sensors and automation, the dream of an un-manned ship will become a reality.
- Communication Systems – Most of the ships built in the 21st century are equipped with internet, but are these ships truly connected ships? A connected ship is where the all sorts of data from the ship can be viewed live by all concerned stakeholders, such as by the shore office, the concerned authorities, the charterers etc. Continuous monitoring of the machinery and complete ship can be done from the shore, assistance from the equipment manufacturers, authorities etc will be available instantly in case of a connected ship. This will also be a major step towards the realization of an un-manned ship.
- Big Data Analytics – The sheer amount of data that is generated on a single ship is enormous due to the number of sensors and transmitters equipped on-board. Consider the amount of data that will be generated across a fleet of 100 vessels. This data cannot be analysed by traditional techniques. With the help of big data analytics data can be analysed and segregated. Predictive and prescriptive analysis would also help increasing the quality and efficiency of the vessel and in turn the fleet. Live analysis of data is also possible in big data analysis, where even minor abnormalities can be identified with the help of algorithms, which could not have been identified by human monitoring.
- Robotics – The vast power of robotics can be harnessed to make shipping faster, safer and efficient. With recent advancements in robotics operations such as hull cleaning, hull survey and inspections can be done with the help of robots instead of doing processes manually. Robotics combined with the above technologies can revolutionize shipping industry and reduce human intervention to a minimum, thereby improving speed, safety and efficiency.
The ultimate objective of all these technologies is to make shipping/maritime industry into one of the most innovative, efficient and effective industries. Reducing human interaction and intervention to a minimum will reduce the chances of accidents and incidents as 80% of the incidents occur due to human error. But, till the time these technologies are not prepared for all possible situations, an un-manned ship will remain a dream.