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Monthly Archives: January 2017


By Richard Hepworth, President, Trelleborg’s marine systems operation

Could the announcement of a major collaboration between Maersk and Alibaba in just the first week of 2017 indicate this is going to be a year of seismic change for our industry? Let’s hope so. Shipping, like all other sectors of the global economy, is transforming. And it needs to change too.

Technology is recognized as one of the key enablers of this change and while it’s interesting to see that the first big deal of the year sees a traditional industry player team up with an e-commerce giant – surely an example of positive disruption at its best – it’s perhaps not unsurprising.

Over the last few years we’ve seen a number of alliances and collaborations, such as the emergence of the so-called Power Four, so the decision by a main shipping line to form a partnership to deploy online services seems to be the logical next step in the evolution of the ‘old’ shipping business model to a more logistics-centred approach. It’s also worth noting that while the first deal of this kind is based in Asia, where the speed of change and disruption is more rapid, it won’t be contained there. Further digitalization of the supply chain is inevitable and everything that can be automated will be automated.

Attitude is key. The traditionally conservative shipping sector needs to embrace technology and the positive change it can bring. Collaborations such as this one, may seem removed from our own day-to-day activities, but there are smaller, practical steps that can be taken now to take advantage of developments in smart technology.

Our own research shows how shipping lines value smart technologies that have a positive impact on the safe and efficient operations of ports and terminals. These so-called smart ports benefit from smart technology that connects products, collects data and provides insights to deliver real efficiency gains, such as lowering operating costs due to improved vessel throughput. It’s a first step but it’s a tangible one.


By Mishra Kumar, Technical Director for Marine Fenders at Trelleborg’s marine systems operation

Back in December, Richard posted a blog entitled ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, about the importance of understanding how materials perform and are processed in order to ensure you get what you pay for when it comes to specifying and procuring fenders.

We’ve discussed this issue a lot. We know there are players in the industry who are willing to lie and cheat tests in order to undercut reputable manufacturers. We have been working for years to stop it.

And now we’ve got some new developments to share.

A lot of our previous work has concentrated on rubber fenders: the importance of understanding how ingredients are selected, how they are manufactured and how they are tested. Although the industry is still far from perfect, largely, this work has been successful. There is a recognition of the need to specify quality and avoid making purchasing decisions based on price.

Now, we’ve moved our research on to foam fenders. Erroneously perceived to be a commodity product, they are an extremely versatile solution, often the most effective system for a number of applications.

The specification and production of foam fenders needs to be taken more seriously: they must be decommoditized and treated with the same level of importance as highly engineered, rubber fenders are beginning to be.

That’s why we are recommending a new testing method for foam, to ensure a best practice approach is taken. We’ve launched a brand new whitepaper and webinar detailing best practice design and manufacture for foam fenders, and highlighting exactly how they should be tested to guarantee performance. The new method and report are based on robust data from an in-depth research program we undertook earlier in the year.

But we’ve not stopped there. A key project for this year has been the development of an online Fender Selection Tool, which enables port consultants to determine the appropriate fender system for their project. We’ve almost completely digitized the fender selection process, while saving consultants huge amounts of time normally spent carrying out complex manual calculations.

The tool will help specifiers and suppliers take steps towards a more standardized engineering process, reducing subjectivity in the design process and shaping industry best practice and consistency.

The tool only requires the input of a few parameters and generates a document detailing every potential fender system suitable for the application and performance required.

These are just the latest steps we’ve taken in our mission to drive standards up across the industry. We will continue to work to raise awareness of the risks of inappropriate fender selection. It’s critical that specifiers understand the dangers. The consequences could be severe.

To explore the tool, visit: