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Technology reshapes the shipping industry

The shipping industry is facing changes, and one of the driving forces is the development of new technology. Tom Boardley, Executive Vice President at Lloyd’s Register gives his view on the future trends of the industry.

“Shipping is by far the most economic and efficient way of transporting goods, especially with regards to environmental aspects like pollution. The nature of the shipping business is very cyclical and growth has been quite slow since the financial crisis. The forecast is that this trend will continue, and that the market will not be great for a few more years. This puts pressure on companies, as efficiency plays a more important aspect in successful operations.

Our future will continue to be driven by technology. Intense competition encourages greater sophistication in the use of technology and operational efficiency in order to gain commercial advantages. A lot of the new technology has reached a level of maturity to be used in the shipping industry, for example, advancements in ship system design and operation is being used to enhance safety, as well as financial and commercial performance.

Increasing public awareness of the environment and climate change will continue to put pressure on governments to respond with regulatory policy, which also drives technological development, for example when it comes to using alternative fuels.

There are already several regulations in place in this area, and more are to be expected in the future. Most efforts right now are connected to emissions regulations and ballast water. There is a growing use of LNG and other alternative fuels in areas requiring greater environmental protection. These areas are growing and becoming increasingly connected with each other. However, it is costly to rebuild ships, and the alternative fuels are mainly used in new ships being constructed. In the coming years there will still be many “old” vessels in use, running on “old” fuels.

Shipping companies do not have to be huge to be successful, but they do need to have a great technical expertise and knowledge. Financial aspects are of course also important, but the technical side is vital for a successful service.

We will see an increasing number of smart ships in the future. New technology, like robotics, could be very useful in dangerous situations, for example when inspecting tanks. It will probably also be used in during the hazardous parts of ship construction. However, it is not expected that robotics will replace the human crew on a ship. The cost of the crew is small compared to the total cost, it is not likely that we will see unmanned vessels in the near future.

On this note, there is a risk for an increasing shortage of maritime skills and resources. The development of new technologies could, however bring opportunities for future careers for seafarers. More sophisticated ships will enable new and different roles, which hopefully will be appealing to coming generations and contribute to make seafaring an attractive career option again.

Shipping is by far the most economic mode of transportation, with little environmental damage. In a longer perspective, the outlook for global fleet growth is positive. Nations will continue to trade, and as developing countries grow, they will trade more than today. Following this, we can expect a bright future for shipping.”

Tom Boardley, Executive Vice President, Lloyd’s Register

Lloyd’s Register

Lloyd’s Register is the world’s largest and oldest international company for the classification of ships, and is one of the classification societies often engaged by Stena’s shipping operations. In addition to ship classification, the company also collects and issues various types of marine information. The report “Global Marine Technology Trends 2030”, describing future trends in the shipping area, was published in 2015.

The future of shipping

Stena’s technical director and Tom Boardley from Lloyd’s Register are discussing.
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