Wave of the Future: 5 Maritime Shipping Trends
From the time sea captains relied solely on celestial navigation to the smart ports of today, technology has continuously changed the shipping industry. Here are some of the biggest trends in maritime shipping to scope out, says a Thomasnet.com report:
1. Autonomous Ships
In 2022, the U.S. Navy took over the Pentagon's ghost fleet system, which explored the use of unmanned ships. The Ghost Fleet Overload program functioned on autonomous mode for 98% of the journey on a 4,000-mile voyage through the Panama Canal. Maritime systems provider Kongsberg has developed self-driving control systems for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, and there are more than 1,000 in operation.
2. Industrial Internet of Things
While the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is often associated with factories, it will also play a growing role in maritime. IIoT uses smart sensors and other technology to augment industrial processes. These sensors can provide data on wind speed, RPM, emissions, and positioning. IIoT is critical for real-time analytics and can help ships connect with ports, support centers, fleet partners, and maintenance service providers.
Forged documents plague the shipping industry, but blockchain offers a tamper-proof solution. In 2018, international container company Maersk teamed up with IBM to form TradeLens, an industry-wide, blockchain-based trading platform. By 2020, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM fully integrated with the platform. The first marine insurance blockchain platform has also arrived via Guardtime and EY.
4. Port Automation
About 100 container ships were backlogged in Southern California mid-January 2022. Automating ports is critical to easing congestion and increasing efficiency. Many Chinese and European ports already automate tasks. Adoption has been slower in the United States, but will likely ramp up. In 2021, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced a fourth automated terminal, and Virginia and New Jersey have at least three semi-automated terminals.
5. Digital Twins
By creating a virtual representation of a port complex, digital twins can test a structure's functionality and provide intelligent forecasts related to operations. This includes predicting arrival times and peaks, which is key to managing busy ports. The trillion-dollar infrastructure plan signed into law in November 2021 allocates $17 billion for improvements to coastal and inland ports, waterways, and ports of entry at the U.S. border, providing an opportunity to implement such technology.