One of the most fiercely debated maritime topics as to whether or not the maritime industry is ready to embrace smart shipping led to an animated discussion on the opening day of Seatrade Maritime Middle East 2018, which runs at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) until 31st October.
The resulting vote was that although the industry was ready, “we are split,” concluded debate moderator Jasamin Fichte of law firm Fichte & Co. The debate underlined that smart shipping represents “a good way forward,” she said, and while doubts remain over whether the industry is ready, “I think we are on the right way.”
Debating the question were two teams of leading industry figures, one led by Precious Shipping’s Managing Director Khalid Hashim and the other by René Kofod-Olsen, CEO of Topaz Energy and Marine.
Hashim argued that the industry was not ready because necessary regulations governing the use of new technologies such as autonomous ships, artificial intelligence (AI) and the cyber risks involved all remained some way off. In addition, a recent reader survey by Seatrade Maritime News confirmed that less than 10 per cent of shipping companies are currently making any significant use of big data, he added.
Supporting him was Ali Shehab Ahmad, Deputy CEO of Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC), who suggested that unlimited broadband at sea was still too “costly,” and that service providers should “do more” through incentives for ship operators to install new technologies.
Leading the other team, Mr Kofod-Olsen countered by saying that shipping’s use of big data and analytics is already bringing multiple benefits such as route and fuel optimisation, predictive maintenance, more efficient fleet management, and improved crew welfare. Smart shipping as defined as digitalisation of the industry ‘is already here, and expected by everyone in the office and onboard ship,” he declared.
Oskar Levander, Senior Vice-President for Concepts & Innovation at Rolls-Royce Marine, described smart shipping as a “very wide toolbox with something in it for everyone.” One highly advanced application is the remotely controlled, autonomous vessel, the first demonstration of which may be imminent, he hinted.
Drew Brandy, Senior Vice-President of Market Strategy at Inmarsat Maritime, drew the parallel with smart phones, stating simply connectivity is the reality of the modern shipping industry.
Seatrade Maritime Middle East (SMME) 2018, the biennial maritime meeting place for the Middle East in Dubai, brings together an impressive array of international and regional ship owners and operators, ports, financiers, and other maritime professionals to attract an overwhelming number of visitors to network, do business, strengthen and nurture new relationships.
The exciting three-day event features an exhibition, product demonstrations, networking opportunities and industry seminars - all designed to increase awareness on the major trends and developments and their impacts on the market’s future at both regional and global levels.
SMME 2018, an integral part of the UAE Maritime Week 2018, is hosting nearly 300 exhibitors from leading international maritime companies this year and is expected to attract over 8,000 visitors. The exhibition is also a platform to examine some of the recent challenges faced by the industry, through a lineup of seminars, panel discussions, and roundtables. The topics of these sessions cover autonomous shipping and automation, fuels of the future, digital and cyber technologies and environmental challenges within the shipping industry.
The seminars on the second day of Seatrade Maritime Middle East 2018 included a session titled ‘Original Intelligence: Maritime's Human Backbone,’ which examined the importance of the human element in maritime safety, security and environmental protection. As the International Maritime Organization (IMO) continues to ramp up its sustainability efforts to regulate merchant shipping, a panel deliberated shipping’s ability to continue to provide a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally during the session titled ‘Can Going Green Save the Green.’
Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, said: "Government authorities in the UAE are constantly renewing their efforts to improve the nation’s maritime industry, with a focus on its future. These efforts are in line with the UAE’s Maritime Vision 2030, which aims to further enhance the country’s reputation as the region’s foremost maritime hub, and several investments have been made to upgrade its port facilities. Increased footfall we are witnessing at SMME this year reflects the success of these efforts. The seminar sessions in particular, are garnering tremendous appreciation from attendees. Through engaging the attendees and participants in meaningful dialogues, we seek to collectively contribute to the sector’s progress by addressing challenges within the shipping industry with an aim to develop more efficient and modern solutions to mitigate their impacts.”
A highlight of the last day of seminars at SMME 2018 will be the ‘Power of Gender Diversity,’ endorsed by HRH Princess Sarah Al Saud, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) UAE’s Ambassador. The session set to feature several high-profile speakers, will examine whether the shipping industry is still reluctant to give jobs to women, in what has largely been a male-dominated industry. It will also discuss ways to empower women in the maritime sector, amongst other topics.