Shipping automation, the long journey towards the future

Source: Shipping automation, the long journey towards the future

The shipping sector has generally been slower that other fields in adopting digital technologies, due to its conservative nature and the diverse and multiple operators involved. In 2016, it was estimated that only 4-5 percent of container volume was being handled by fully automated terminals. Nonetheless, pressure from customers, need to reduce costs, and competition have heightened the request for ports to invest and automate.

Next generation of container vessels will not only be bigger, but also increasingly automated and even autonomous.

Fully-automated terminals have the advantage of low operating costs and reliable operations, but require higher investment costs and longer development. On the other hand, semi-automated terminals offer the possibility for greater productivity with less upfront costs, but are often inadequate in relation to need of port’s current needs.

The study, entitled “Competitive Gain the Ocean Supply Chain: Innovation That’s Driving Maritime Operational Transformation,” by Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network in coordination with Navis indicates that importers, exporters, container carriers, terminal operators, vessel owners and other stakeholders suffer from poor visibility and predictability around shipments and are losing money due to a lack of partner synchronization and insufficient data insight.

As ports and the shipping industry are integral parts of global and regional supply chains, their automation and technological modernization raises the potential cyber risk. The reality of cyber threats to automated terminals was demonstrated in the “Petya” cyber-attack in June 2017, when Maersk’s APM terminal and 15 other Maesrk terminal were affected by the disruption of the malware. There is another sides to the automation advances.

Increasing automation causes the loss of situation awareness, which can significantly affect performance in abnormal, timecritical circumstances.

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