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THROW AWAY THE CRYSTAL BALL – HOW PREDICTIONS FOR THE SHIPPING INDUSTRY ARE FAST BECOMING A REALITY


By Richard Hepworth, president of Trelleborg’s marine systems operation

As part of our recent ‘Preparing for the Port of the Future’ Report we interviewed Gerd Leonhard, renowned futurist and one of Europe’s Top 100 most influential people according to Wired (UK). Gerd was asked to give his predictions on how our industry might change over the coming decade –what is interesting, is how some of these predictions are already fast becoming a reality.

Not only have we seen shipping logistics shaken up wholescale with Amazon rapidly expanding its own logistics infrastructure, but further disruption has also come from the recent tie-up of Maersk and Alibaba. In the space of less than twelve months, the ‘traditional’ shipping business model is looking decidedly out-of-date. Just as predicted, only sooner.

There’s a lesson in this for us. As an industry we have to embrace change. It’s not simply a case of change will happen, it is happening.  Relationships are shifting, bringing new connections in adjacent but relevant fields. This means adopting a more flexible approach to partnerships with clients and other suppliers. The idea of hyper-collaboration is going to be critical. These joint ventures will come in all shapes and sizes, and therefore being open to different types of approaches is key to ensure we don’t cut off future growth or revenue opportunities.

It’s what Gerd calls ‘Digital Darwinism’, and while technology is making it possible to identify the weaker species, technology is also the means to be more competitive and to thrive in the marine landscape of the future. As part of our Preparing for the Port of the Future Report, Trelleborg also researched the attitudes of ports and terminals across the world towards automation, and their current take-up of smart technologies – establishing the digital maturity of the shipping industry.

What we learned is that while there is widespread recognition of the benefits of automation, there is a disconnect between this acceptance and the actual implementation of smart products.  Only 29% of ports and terminals electronically track and standardize data on pilot performance and adherence to routes. Similarly, only 21% have insight into speed and angle of berthing. Yet these are exactly the type of data insights that need to be captured and analysed. They will deliver the productivity gains in terms of port efficiency and vessel throughput that are needed to remain competitive in the aftermath of the Amazon, Maersk and Alibaba mega-deals.

Stakeholders across the industry need to start anticipating change – because we’re all effected by it in a big way. Ports are becoming technology labs – environments ripe for research, development and experimentation in the drive to generate efficiencies.

 

 

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