Per Martin Tanggaard addresses some of the key issues facing the future of shipping. Through his role as Director of Nor-Shipping, Your Arena for Ocean Solutions, his extensive business network provides a broad spectrum of high level insights, from high level industry executives.
1) How can autonomous ships contribute towards making our future more sustainable, and what role will smart ports play?
As our friends at Massterly recently stressed, the first phase of autonomous ship development will be focused on one key segment. We’ll soon see the appearance of a new breed of vessel sailing short sea shipping routes, relatively close to land. These will be used to take goods traditionally transported by trucks off on the roads and onto the sea.
This will dramatically cut down on vehicle congestion and air pollution – especially so as the predictable, short distance routes will allow for pure battery power, and therefore zero emissions. The Yara Birkeland container vessel, launching here in Norway in 2020, will demonstrate the potential of this to the world and is a hugely exciting project. It shows how the industry is taking tangible #ACTION (Nor-Shipping’s 2021 focus) to bring new solutions to life.
This trailblazing vessel was a major topic of discussion at Nor-Shipping 2019, where maritime and ocean industry players from around the world congregate to discuss the latest innovations, technology and new ways of realizing business potential in the ocean space. A lot of people are watching it with intense interest.
Once the concept has been proved we’ll see a wider acceptance of unmanned ships in both the industry and society as a whole, leading to greater adoption. This will lead to a range of benefits in terms of enhancing the sustainability of the maritime industry. Greater efficiency (enabled by data sharing and connectivity), automatically optimized routes (with just in time arrivals) and alternative fuels will reduce environmental impact, while the automation of processes and operations will remove the potential of human error, leading to less incidents and accidents.
Some will argue that jobs will be shed as a result, but the mood at Nor-Shipping this year seemed to suggest opportunity for new competency and roles too, with increased land-based employment and the need for digital skills. As an industry we have to evolve to survive and this adaptation of the workforce is a part of that process.
In terms of smart ports, they will be a key enabler in the move towards autonomy (which, I have to add, will be gradual – instead we’ll see increasing automation in the near future, rather than widespread autonomy, as new technology is introduced to existing vessels to unlock greater insights and efficiency). Again, I refer back to the Yara Birkeland project. When the plans were presented in detail at Nor-Shipping it became clear that a whole new port infrastructure would be created to maximise value, safety and efficiency. This included self-driving straddle carriers, automatic mooring systems and automated loading and discharging. A new type of vessel demands a new breed of port.
2) As ship owners start to grapple with IMO 2020, do you think that LNG is the fuel of the near future?
I’ll refer back to the discussions we have at Nor-Shipping, where industry chiefs, regulators, thought leaders and innovators take to the stage at our conferences and knowledge sharing events to help delegates plan for future challenges and opportunities. Fuel is obviously a key topic of discussion, especially against the backdrop of IMO 2020 and the longer-term plans for (eventually) making shipping a carbon neutral industry. In those discussions the prevailing wisdom seems to focus on a fuel mix rather than one specific fuel, such as LNG.
The world is grappling with the need for an energy transition away from fossil fuels, and shipping, with its need to preserve the fragile ocean environment, is at the vanguard of that (or it certainly will be in coming years). But there’s no silver bullet as yet. So owners need to be open to adaptation, potentially investing in vessels that can run on dual (or multiple) energy and fuel sources. As with all walks of life, there’s a danger of ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’.
However, I must stress, I’m not an expert… but at Nor-Shipping expertise is everywhere. My impression from that arena is the LNG is certainly a fuel of the near future, but saying it’s the fuel may be going a little far.
3) Can you brief us on the achievements of Nor-Shipping 2019 in the area of technologies such as Blockchain, big data, IoT and machine learning?
Nor-Shipping is known throughout the maritime and ocean business arenas as being the natural hub for innovation, forward thinking, and for the ability of participants to help set the course for the future of our industry. Digital technology is absolutely central to that. But we don’t ‘achieve’ things in relation to the above areas – instead we provide a platform for others to showcase their achievements and share invaluable knowledge with our 50,000 plus delegates.
So, for example, at our Ocean Leadership Conference on Day 1 of Nor-Shipping 2019 we welcomed Admiral Michael S. Rogers, former Director National Security Agency & former Commander US Cyber command, to talk about the new risk environment created by increased connectivity, data sharing and automation, and how to tackle those challenges and seize opportunity. IMMARSAT led a session on ‘trusting IoT’, while the Maritime Digitalization Forum had leading thinkers from around the world delivering valuable insights on Blockchain, big data and much, much more. And this is just scratching the surface of an event week that offered a menu of over 220 conferences and events with more than 300 high level participants.
Nor-Shipping doesn’t exist to put itself in the spotlight, but rather position our exhibitors, speakers, delegates and other key stakeholders center stage. This is ‘Your Arena for Ocean Solutions’, we are essentially here to help and add value in any way we can.
4) In the light of increasing regulations, do you expect a major transformation in the shipbuilding industry?
Regulations are always a driver for change, and the shipbuilding industry is not immune from this process. To predict whether they themselves will be the catalyst for a ‘major transformation’ is difficult though.
What we can say, from speaking to Nor-Shipping’s attendees (who represent over 85 different nationalities) is that the segment is certainly dynamic and often unpredictable. With fluctuating demand, ongoing economic and geopolitical uncertainty, and developing environmental and regulatory requirements, that dynamism will no doubt continue.
Aside from the regulatory aspect, market forces and industry development will continue to prompt evolution. We’ll see consolidation – as demonstrated by the recently approved merger of CSSC and CSIC – as key players fight for market share. And, ending where we began, the arrival of autonomy will bring a new set of opportunities and challenges for existing players. There will, we expect, be a real opening here for yards to position themselves as specialists in an area that will surely blossom in future years.
This is an industry that retains a sense of excitement and unpredictability.
One thing you can be sure of though – whatever the future holds you’ll be able to experience it at Nor-Shipping 2021. There should be a lot of #ACTION for everyone then!