Maritime 4.0: Practices, challenges and opportunities
The purpose of Maritime 4.0 includes but is not limited to improving the lifecycle of vessels, facilitating the delivery of greater performance, lowering ownership cost, increasing safety and reliability
Data transmission is now possible in real time, from which Industry 4.0 benefits greatly. This development is also reflected in the maritime economy, an essential part of global supply chains. The term for this new, digitally-enabled industry is "Maritime 4.0".
What is Maritime 4.0?
When the maritime industry and Industry 4.0 come together, we call it Maritime 4.0. The following features are the most common almost all experts agree on when defining Maritime 4.0:
Data use: Automated integration of data in decision-making
Networking: Implementation of networked technologies for design, production and operations
Sustainability: Reduced environmental impact of shipping in terms of production, operations and disposal
Operations: Cost-effective and sustainable processes
Safety: Risk reduction and improvement of safety
Maritime 4.0 is thus intended to extend the life cycles of ships, improve performance, reduce operating costs and increase safety and reliability.
The development stages of Maritime 4.0
In the context of Industry 4.0, we speak of maturity levels that a company goes through. None of these stages can be skipped in the development process, if their potential is to be maximised.
To keep up with the four phases of Industry 4.0, there are some immediate issues the maritime industry needs to address: First, the visibility of historical and real-time information is still far from comprehensive. Second, the data specifications and formats used must be standardized.
Hence, there are two phases the maritime industry needs to tackle to really develop smart capabilities:
Phase 1: Gain quick wins by data standardization, visualization, and streamlining processes
Phase 2: Achieve smart capabilities by leveraging a single source of truth
Challenges and opportunities of Maritime 4.0
Digitisation in shipping is progressing rapidly, COVID has accelerated this development by three years, according to a report by Thetius and Inmarsat. The global market for digital products and services in the maritime sector will grow to 159 billion USD in 2022. Investment in digital technologies is also growing, with 85 percent year over year growth in 2021.
This is an urgently needed development. At the same time, the opportunities comes with challenges that need to be addressed:
Maritime safety is a high priority issue in the industry, but brings unresolved challenges. Predictive maintenance is a trending topic, but unlike in the manufacturing industry, it is still far from being implemented comprehensively. This is due to high data inaccuracy and expensive sensor installation that many shipping companies shy away from for various reasons.
Despite the challenges, there are options to benefit from the digital possibilities now, without the upfront investments required for sensors. The principle applies: think big, but start small and act quickly. Companies can start digitising inspection processes without sensors. The solution is to give the people on board tools that make it fast and easy to collect reliable data points and information. This way, collected data can be evaluated in the context of clear standards and shows trends immediately which normally would only be identified by digging through piles of paper reports after an incident already happened.
The challenge of data management in the maritime industry has always been having inaccurate and delayed information among different stakeholders. There are currently no satisfactory solutions to this challenge, as the information gap brings short-term gains. It is in the best interest of the industry to unlock long-term benefits and efficiency by sharing required information fast and efficiently, by using agreed upon standards.
It is the most discussed topic in 2022: shipping must now become sustainable fast. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is calling on the industry to reduce carbon intensity by 40% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050 (compared to 2008 levels), through energy efficiency improvements, new technologies and low or zero carbon fuels. Solutions need to be found on a broad scale here, as time is short and the necessary changes are large.
Putting seafarers at the centre
In considerations of digital potential for the maritime industry, one angle is vastly underestimated, and might as well hold the key to solving all of the above mentioned issues: Seafarers - the human factor. They have suffered greatly from the pandemic, with resignation rates rising significantly since its start: from 2 to over 15 percent in some companies. Today it is more urgent than ever to always consider the well-being of the crew when planning and changing processes. Increasing their satisfaction with their job on the high seas means increasing the quality of operations and reducing downtime.
What conclusions can be drawn from this?
The vision of Maritime 4.0 is to have a higher level of automation, enable predictive maintenance, create self-optimising processes and, above all, increase efficiency in all areas without disregarding human well-being. To achieve this, data standardisation is a must. All sectors within the maritime industry need to address this to realise the true Maritime 4.0 vision. The COVID pandemic has caused an acceleration of digital transformation in shipping, an irreversible trend. Maritime should embrace the change, and make good use of it.