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Trace Elements: The Beginners Guide To Maritime Container Tracking

Trace Elements: The Beginners Guide To Maritime Container Tracking

When a cargo owner sends containerised goods by sea, chances are they will not know where their payload is for some time and delays will be unforeseen because most ocean freight disappears into ‘Davy Jones’ locker’, only to resurface at some vague point in the future – hopefully at the right terminal and, especially in the case of reefer cargo, still in useable condition. 

It is a testament to faith that shippers have been content with this regime for so long, but things are now changing.  Soon, very few containers will be carried through this shroud of radio silence, as if transiting the dark side of the moon.  Instead, technology is converging to bring the humble container into the light, where its progress (and delays) can be seen and acted upon by all those concerned with its carriage.  Here, we take a brief look at both sensorless and ‘IOT’ container tracking solutions and ask: Can a container really be tracked from end to end if there is an ocean in between?

I recently bought a keyring from an online retailer of unprecedented scale and with a jungle-esque persuasion (no prizes for guessing which!) and once again, I was impressed by the ability to track my purchase from end to end.  The item cost me less than a skinny latte from a Richmond coffee house (as many things do), but I was able to know at each stage where my keyring was and watched it wend its way to my house, where I was ready to catch it as it fell from the letter box.

Domestically at least, this kind of visibility in the supply chain is easy to achieve.  So easy, evidently, that it comes as standard, even if you only purchase a keyring for a few pounds.  The technology is simple in principle; using a mixture of sensorless ‘checkpointing’, where the item is scanned into and out of known locations, and sensor-equipped location tracking where the item is traced using satellite positioning.  By connecting this data with a communications network, a customer can be kept informed at each stage. In the case of my keyring, I was informed when the item was dispatched, I could see when it passing into and out of two freight forwarding depots and finally I was presented with a map to show the location of the courier’s van as s/he closed with my purchase. 

As we know, carrying sea freight, whilst prima facie appearing to be a simple affair, is riddled with challenges: For containerised cargo to arrive when it is expected, the container must be stuffed and transported in time to be loaded onto the intended ship during a specified port call.  The ship must then depart when anticipated, make passage without deviation from the scheduled route and without incident to vessel or cargo. It must then arrive at the destination port on time and with minimal delay waiting for an available berth; being efficiently offloaded for domestic forwarding as planned, incurring minimal idle time in the process.  

Adding to the uncertainty, sea freight relies on a large, multinational team of customs officials, terminal operators, harbour authorities, maritime service providers, insurance brokers etc. and of course the ship’s crew.  The process is also vulnerable to a myriad of other factors such as the weather, sea state, political and industrial unrest and, in extremis, piracy or negligence.  It is easy to see then, how no two ocean freight deliveries will be the same.

The best remedy for this uncertainty is visibility.  Many of the factors above are out of the BCOs control, so perhaps it is best to be able to see deviations and delays and mitigate for them, rather than hoping to eliminate them altogether.  But the case for container tracking goes beyond being of benefit to the cargo owner alone. In such an interconnected ecosystem, visibility to the supply chain itself can reap major benefits.  Speaking about increasing supply chain visibility at the annual Transport Practitioners Meeting this year, Maersk CEO Søren Skou said “Both we and our customers will get value of our increased visibility.  Customers will get better insight in to their supply chains and Maersk will save costs.” Because these cost savings will be gleaned from efficiency gained through greater visibility, the result will be an overall improvement in the performance of sea freighting for the benefit of all. 

Tracking containers

There are two principal technology options for tracking shipping containers – ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IOT’ systems, and sensorless, process-based container tracking.  The former uses a device affixed to the container itself. Measurements can be made automatically on a number of things like location, temperature and physical dynamics, which is then transmitted to the cloud.  By contrast, the latter harnesses human input to update the status and characteristics of the container as it progresses through the supply chain – similar to the checkpointing system.   

IOT

Although IOT appears to offer a more advanced solution, there are some major drawbacks. The idea of remotely tracking containers in the same way a transport company might track its trucks, is an appealing one.  What better way to confirm the location of a container than by viewing a live ‘ping’ on a map? In reality, however, that is not what IOT tracking delivers – at least, not always.  

GPS-enabled trackers, whilst having the ability to pinpoint a container to within a few feet, have three major drawbacks in the maritime environment.  Firstly, GPS antennae require a clear view of a number of satellites in order to gain a fix. Once the container is stacked in a yard or lowered into a ship’s hold, or obscured by an obstruction, this signal is lost and the container effectively falls, once more, in to radio silence.

Secondly, communicating with satellites consumes enough power to make battery life problematic.  This is being tackled by tracker manufacturers who are fitting their devices with solar panels, programming-in passive modes and harnessing improvements in battery technology. But none of these fixes offers an entirely satisfying solution – you either have to keep your container bathed in sunlight, accept planned breaks in communication or pay more for the hardware.

Lastly, the cost.  Not only because the cost of streaming data via satellite networks is still relatively high, but the capital expenditure required to deploy sensors to thousands of containers is a major consideration; and that is after it is decided who should pay – the shipper, the carrier, or logistics company?  Satellite service providers have been talking of reduced data exchange rates in response to the change that IOT is hailing, but according to some, data rates for tracked containers can still be as high as $10 USD per container / per month.

Sensorless Container Tracking

Without the ad-hoc nature of GPS tracking, sensorless tracking represents an efficient, reliable and cost-effective method of tracing cargo through the supply chain.

Simply by recording the arrival and departure of cargo at certain key points and transmitting this data to the cloud, it is possible to harness many of the same benefits that sensor-enabled tracking provides, i.e – knowing the physical location of the cargo and even what condition its in.

One major benefit to sensorless tracking is the human interface.  Although there are algorithms and computing power behind much of a sensorless system, the human is integrated and able to check the logic at each stage.  Seafarers have never been more highly trained and as competent as they are today and digitalisation does not need to shun or supercede this talent just yet.  Smart digital technology can work with seafarers, not only for the benefit of the cargo owners that drive the shipping industry, but for the benefit of the industry itself.

Resolution is no barrier to sensorless tracking either.  GPS can resolve to only a few meters, anywhere on the globe.  But, if a cell location is known, then a unit of cargo can be assigned to it – no need for GPS to grapple for a fix.

The downside to sensorless tracking is that it requires some method of unification with other supply chain partners to get the best from it.  Standardisation is key here and the work of the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA), talked about in my last article, will be instrumental in propelling forward all types of container tracking in this regard.

Conclusion

Tracking containers is here and will continue to be the future for the container shipping industry.  The benefits of visibility to both the customer and the supply chain at large are now well understood and carriers are already investing in the technology to bring these benefits to the fore.

The two principal types of tracking technology, while each having their individualities, essentially deliver the same outcomes.  Sensor-equipped tracking has the benefit of being a self-contained end-to-end solution, but has drawbacks in terms of cost and technological limitations – especially when it comes to satellite positioning and global connectivity.

Sensorless tracking voids these concerns, but does require effective integration across the supply chain.  As standards in message formats and technology standards emerge, sensorless tracking will become a robust end-to-end solution.

Of course, there is no reason whatsoever, that sensor-equipped and sensorless tracking cannot work together.  Indeed, each would complement the other well. The capital expenditure of each could also be more evenly spread throughout the supply chain; with sensors being implemented by cargo owners or logistics companies, and sensorless infrastructure falling to the carrier and terminal operators.  

There is no doubt that the majority of boxes shipped globally, will benefit from enhanced tracking and visibility within the next decade – many already are.  For that reason, it is vital that both types of solution are developed cohesively and standards are agreed upon which will allow for a fully integrated, comprehensive and democratised end-to-end solution.

Digital Platforms as an Alternative to Box Carrier Alliances

Digital Platforms as an Alternative to Box Carrier Alliances

Over much of the last 30 years, container carriers have been on a mission to pursue profitability, enhance their customer value proposition, and manage swelling overheads by forming alliances and signing slot-sharing agreements with other carriers. Indeed a classic strength-in-numbers strategy, but in the age of big data, social entrepreneurship and cloud computing, there could be another way – the ocean network platform.  Here we take a look at the top 6 and ask – are we seeing a shift from traditional slot sharing alliances to digital partnerships?

The global ocean transport network is no longer a marketplace of competitor ships vying for the chance to carry goods from one place to the next.  In fact, this has been the case for some time. The web of ocean freight transport has been growing ever more interconnected as our globalised economy matures, and there is an almost universal acknowledgement from the industry that some level of cooperation is key to achieving the required economies of scale to make ship operating viable into the future.

Shipping is a costly business and carriers realised long ago that, in the pursuit of profit, managing the exorbitant cost base was vital.  In the mid-1990s, alliances emerged between smaller carriers to help them stave off ruthless competition from above, but today, three major alliances between the world’s most capacitive and influential carriers convey over 80% of global box trade and 95% on the east-west trading routes dominated by containerised cargoes.  The big carriers saw the benefits and wanted in.

The advantages are clear:  by sharing slots, carriers can optimise fleet deployment and increase capacity on quieter or more competitive routes, as well as offering shippers enhanced value proposition in the form of quicker shipments and more choice.  By sharing terminal infrastructure and services, operations can be tightened up and made cheaper through economies of scale. For the carriers, shippers, and ocean freight services industry, these advantages are welcomed in today’s uncertain global economic environment.

But as is so often the case, this strategy isn’t without its detractors.  The manufacturing and consumer industries, in particular, have vocalised their suspicions over an evermore consolidated carrier market.  Some see this cooperation as nothing more than collusion and a pernicious attempt to de-democratise container shipping in favour of strong freight rates and greater market control.  Others, while appreciating the need for such alliances, decry the carriers for their apparent unwillingness to pass any savings on to shippers in the form of discounted freight rates or reduced bunker adjustment factors.  

The platform approach

With the emergence of vastly more powerful data and communications technologies, there are new ways of achieving these economies of scale without further consolidation of shipping companies or raising further suspicion from shippers.  Consortium services like INTRAA, Tradelens, and CargoSmart’s Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) bring a new kind of proposition by enhancing available services accessed through a shared, neutral platform, or as I like to put it – ‘Network Enhancement as a Service’.

INTRAA

Founded in 2001, the INTRAA platform has evolved from a simple container booking system to one providing a full suite of software and services to carriers and shippers.

The platform claims to be the largest neutral digital network and information provider in ocean carriage, connecting more than 35,000 shippers to 60 carriers and NVOCCs and hosting more than 850,000 container orders per week.  That is over 25% of global container trade.

Participating carriers include some big names like APL, CMA CGM, Cosco, Hapag Lloyd and Arkas, all of whom benefit from electronic booking, electronic Verified Gross Mass (eVGM) processing, container track and trace, container reuse, and demand uptake analytics.

The system can be used to exchange EDI format documentation and includes document conversion software to exchange hard copy documents like physical bills of lading.  An Application Platform Interface or API is provided to integrate their services with participant’s existing IT systems.

Tradelens

Tradelens describe their ecosystem succinctly as ‘every organization in the end-to-end journey of a cargo shipment, coalescing around a secure and versatile platform.’  

Tradelens consists of more than 100 organisations involved in end to end ocean freight transport, sharing data with each other through publication and subscription under a ‘digital permissioning model’.  Simply put, participants can access permitted data to help them improve planning, efficiency and equipment utilisation in exchange for providing pertinent data to help other supply chain participants do the same – quid pro quo.

Again, Tradelens purports to be a ‘truly neutral platform’, but has had to work hard to convince our industry that this the case since its launch in August 2018.  Tradelens was developed through a partnership between IBM and Maersk and continues to be run by senior Maersk figures. In an attempt to render an image of neutrality, Tradelens is putting together a pan-market advisory board in the hope that this will encourage Maersk’s competitors to join the party. This approach appears to be working, with Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express joining the platform recently.

Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN)

Launched just months after Tradelens in November 2018, the GSBN is another digital shipping platform that aims to connect carriers, terminal operators, customs agencies, shippers, and logistics service providers to ‘enable collaborative innovation and digital transformation in the supply chain’.

Using technology from Hong Kong-based software and blockchain developers CargoSmart, GSBN is backed by nine founding businesses comprising; ocean carriers CMA CGM, COSCO Shipping Lines, Evergreen Marine, OOCL, and Yang Ming, and terminal operators DP World, Hutchison Ports, PSA International Pte Ltd, and Shanghai International Port.

In July 2019, it was announced that service agreements had been secured as instruments for the continued development of the GSBN among the founding members, however, since inception most have also joined Tradelens, raising questions over the future of the platform.

Zaitoun International Maritime Consortium

Led by Dubai-based Zaitoun Green Shipping, the International Maritime Consortium seeks to collaborate on ‘radically improving the performance of container ships and forming a new business model for the box shipping sector’. The consortium consists of a number of industry players such as MacGregor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Marine Machinery & Equipment, Wärtsilä, Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd, Gaztransport & Technigaz, WIN GD, CargoTech and Carinafour and in January 2019, the consortium announced an academic partnership with the University of Turku in Finland.

With a focus on economic modelling and ecological efficiency, the Turku School of Economics will provide research aimed at finding new ways of realising profitability in the container sector.  

Sharing the limelight with Tradelens by launching in August 2018, the consortium is open to the whole industry to get involved, but there is yet to be any significant outputs announced.

Digital Container Shipping Association

Arguably, more traction has been demonstrated by the creation of the Digital Container Shipping Association which, since formation in April 2019 by Maersk, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express (ONE), has added a further four major carriers – Evergreen Line, Yang Ming, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) and ZIM – in quick succession.

With a focus on setting a common framework for digitalisation in container shipping and the standardisation of formats for the benefit of the whole industry, the DCSA aims to set the pace and direction of digital change in the box sector.

Whilst initially meeting with some suspicion from shippers, concerns have since been largely dispelled, owing to the DCSA’s commitment to making all of their work on everything from data interfacing standards to process blueprinting available free of charge to any interested party.

Smart Maritime Network (SMN)

Distinct from the other platform initiatives described here as the only one not operating on a non-profit basis and not exclusively for containerships, the Smart Maritime Network is nonetheless worth a mention because, in the months since it’s February 2019 launch, it has attracted an impressive membership including MSC, Wallem, V Group, Kongsberg and Dell Technologies.  

The SMN aims to facilitate the development of digital technologies by providing a forum for discussion, cooperation and information sharing among its members.  By generating media content, organising events and the creation of the ‘Smart Maritime Council’, SMN hope to become an instrumental part of coherent digitalisation in the shipping industry of tomorrow.

Conclusion

It is too early to tell what impact these platforms will have on the shape of the box shipping sector in the coming years.  So far, none of the three major alliances has announced any resignations among their constituents in response to the rise in platform membership and there is clear evidence to suggest many of the largest carriers will be content to hedge their bets and put a finger in every pie.

One can’t help wondering though, given the obligations placed on alliance members, whether these platforms might end up offering a solution robust enough to trigger the dissolution of the alliances.  Ultimately, only time and tide will tell.

Do the economic and environmental benefits of marine scrubbers stand up to scrutiny?

Do the economic and environmental benefits of marine scrubbers stand up to scrutiny?

The popularity of scrubber installation as a sulphur cap compliance option has risen exponentially over the last 18 months, with recent figures suggesting around 3250 ships are already fitted with an EGC system – 80% of them being open-loop. But shipping remains divided over their efficacy both in terms of commercial advantage and environmental protection. Matt Kenney asks whether commercial motives are veiling a dirty secret, or is the environmental case for scrubbers really getting stronger?

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Information overload?

Information overload?

The influx of new technology over the last ten years into the maritime industry has been at times, quite overwhelming.  The days of using a paper chart, a sextant and a pair of dividers seem like a lifetime ago when things were much simpler, there was no risk of cyber threats, no dirty USBs to worry about, and no back-up systems to install.  Mariners used their inherited knowledge and skills handed down from master to master and spent a lot more time looking out of the window rather than at a computer screen.

Whilst there is no doubt that the skills are learnt at prestigious maritime colleges such as Warsash are incredibly important, there is now so much more for our PlayStation generation seafarers to master. The introduction of raster charts overtook paper, and then of course came vector charts alongside ECDIS and the bar was raised even higher.  Talk to any mariner of a certain age and they’ll tell you that you still can’t beat a paper chart, the look, the feel and most importantly, the reliability of it are something that is seen by many as irreplaceable.

But as we progress deeper into the age of digitalisation, are we losing those basic maritime skills, particularly when it comes to looking out of the window, are we relying too much on machines and technology to tell us what to do and how will this end up affecting us in the future?

Ignoring the warning signs

We’re all a bit guilty of this, how many times have you completely dismissed the flashing petrol light in your car telling you to fill up. You’re convinced there’s a secret stash of fuel in the tank for just such an occasion so you power on through and are gobsmacked when the car stops in the middle of the road!  There are a thousand examples of when we ignore the warning signs. Now, imagine having hundreds of flashing lights, alerts and alarms on your ECDIS. You know the route like the back of your hand so you turn the alarm off, or maybe you just think it is being over cautious so you ignore them and, God forbid, you have an incident.  An incident that could have, and should have, been prevented.

So where does the fault lie?  Is it the ECDIS too complicated, is it lack of training, or simply human error?  And this isn’t something that occured when ECDIS was first introduced, these incidents are still happening today, albeit slightly less so.

Who needs education?

Having talked to various fleet managers over the years about crew training, there is a small contingent that, rightly or wrongly, are against implementing digital solutions onboard.  Their reasoning is that many of the crew onboard are transient, or agency based or from poor educational backgrounds and so they have to ask themselves, do we really want to trust them with new technology?  This is the same crew are trusted with navigating a multi million pound vessel, plus the countless millions of pounds worth of cargo onboard, much of which, if improperly managed, could have a catastrophic environmental impact.  How’s that for irony?

But these fleet managers have a point.  If the crews are already struggling with the mandatory technology onboard, or at least not using it to its greatest potential, why implement further solutions that will only confuse matters?  In an ideal world, all new tech onboard would be so intuitive that a small child could pick it up and understand it. But we work in a complex industry and whilst there are thousands of seafarers, it’s unfair to compare the simplicity of say, an iPhone, to an integrated bridge system which is why we can never expect new technology to be that simple.  

Man v’s Automation

Here’s the thing, there is a very real risk of technology overtaking the role of the more unskilled seafarer, particularly given the ongoing push for automated vessels in certain sectors.  So where does that leave these men and women that have spent their entire working lives onboard, is the shipping company going to train and upskill them, find them other roles that are shore based?  Call me a cynic but I’m going to say it’s highly unlikely. The whole reason behind automation is to increase efficiency, minimise human error and ultimately reduce costs. So why spend money on training courses for staff, continue to pay their salaries and benefits when the reality is, you’re going to get rid of them anyway?  

We only have to look at the introduction of robotics automotive industry in the 80’s to see how that panned out, and I think it’s safe to say the machines won.  In the last twelve months alone, Honda, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover have all announced further job cuts. Furthermore, if automated cars really do become a reality the UK workforce alone could be set to lose 1.2 million driving based jobs from its economy.

One can only hazard a guess as to how many men and women in the shipping industry would be out of work if technology really does start to overtake.

So what’s the answer?

Personally, I think as an industry that is rapidly embracing technology and all the benefits it brings, we have a responsibility to make that technology as easy to understand as possible.  Okay, we’re never going to be Apple or any of the other hundreds of plug and play variety but can we cut the crap and stop pretending that everyone understands every new idea that comes into the market.  Most of us have a basic understanding of what blockchain is but that doesn’t mean we know how to make it work for us. And why should we? We’re not all MIT graduates, we’re mariners, or in my case, not even that.  The key to successful implementation of any new product or service is to explain what it is, why it’s good, how it works for you and how to get started with it.

Only by sharing our knowledge and understanding how technology can benefit us as both individuals and companies, can we start to make real progress.

Guide to port call optimisation

Guide to port call optimisation

Port call optimisation is a concept that is rapidly gaining ground across the maritime ecosystem. There are a growing number of projects, companies and technologies in the space, but finding the right information or solution can be difficult. To help, we have developed a brief guide to port call optimisation, explaining what it is, how it works, who is doing it, and where to get more information.

What is port call optimisation?

By continuously working to improve the efficiency of vessel port stays, it is possible to improve safety, reduce costs, and reduce emissions. In the majority of port calls conducted around the world, significant waiting times for vessels mean that fuel is needlessly burned to compensate. Port call optimisation is the process by which new business models, technologies, and operational techniques are developed and implemented to reduce those vessel waiting times to zero.

What’s in the guide?

  • A brief guide to what port call optimisation is, and how it is created real world efficiencies for terminals and carriers.
  • A breakdown of how port call optimisation works, and how data harmonisation and digitalisation help break down the operational silos that lead to inefficiency.
  • Notable case studies and real-world examples including how Maersk apply the principles of formula 1 to their port calls, and how the Port of Rotterdam reduced port waiting time by 20%.
  • An index of the most promising port call optimisation projects around the world with details of how to find out more and get involved.

Download the guide

Our seafarers deserve action on DG fires

Our seafarers deserve action on DG fires

Have you ever had to fight a fire at sea? I’d hope that very few people have had to do so. It is one of the most terrifying situations to be involved in. Imagine if part of your house was on fire and the only way of extinguishing it was by the occupants alone. No fire brigade, no external help; just you and whatever equipment you happen to have.

Fires at sea have always been a terrible threat and a seafarer’s worst nightmare. The minimal training combined with a ship’s basic firefighting inventory means most vessels are generally ill-equipped to tackle anything larger than small carboniferous fires.

This has been made tragically evident this year with the number of dangerous goods (DG) related fires onboard ships. Whilst the crew’s efforts to bring these fires under control and prevent loss of the vessel is commendable, they simply should not have been put in the situation in the first place.

From the vessel side, the crew have very little input into whether DG containers are loaded or not. Provided the containers have the correct markings, the correct manifests and are loaded in the correct position in a container fit for carriage – they likely meet the requirements of the shipping companies safety management system and can be loaded.  

Properly marked and manifested DG containers give the vessel a fighting chance should a fire or spillage occur. Not an ‘even chance’ by any means, but at least the crew will know what substances they are dealing with and can determine the level of risk. Could they fight it or are the substances so volatile that the risk is too high?

It is why the IMDG code has been iterated repeatedly since its introduction in the 1960s. Properly packaged and manifested dangerous goods can be carried safely onboard merchant ships. What happens if a DG container is mis-declared (or hazardous contents not even declared at all) and accepted for carriage as a general container?

Provided the mis-declared container behaves like a general container, then the ship, shipper and shipping company are all lucky. Nothing untoward occurs and the cargo arrives at its destination. However, we’ve all seen what happens when the luck runs out.

Shipping companies are angry about the frequency and severity of container ship fires, and rightly so. Apart from the incalculable human cost, the financial cost of a capital asset being damaged by fire is felt in both time and money. The Maersk Honam fire, for example, has put a brand new vessel out of action for over a year, with the general average claims expected to be one of the largest on record.

As a technology company, we’d love to be able to say that there is a technological solution to this issue, but as with most problems in the shipping industry, it is a process change that is necessary.
Shippers need more oversight and stiffer penalties when they are found to be flaunting a carriers’ condition of carriage. Spot checks of cargoes at the port of loading are touted as an option, similar to how VGM checks were initially adopted.

From the vessels’ side, there is little more that can be done that isn’t being done already. Most ships require a crewmember to be present when loading DG containers to ensure they are loaded in the correct position with the correct placards.

Whilst technology is not yet a solution, it should be an aid to better carriage of DG cargoes. Most stowage planning software integrates DG segregation rules, and apps such as Exis Technologies Hazcheck DGL Lite can confirm and dispel suspicions of incorrect placards. At Intelligent Cargo Systems, we’re augmenting our cargo operations monitoring platform CargoMate to allow the crew to notify the carrier immediately if there is a DG discrepancy (more to come on this later this year).

Technology or not, container ship fires demand our attention. We owe it to our seafarers to fix this, or it will be a shame that the industry will have to carry like on-load lifeboat hook testing or the rapidly growing seafarer mental health crisis.
I vividly remember being suited up in a firefighters outfit with breathing apparatus pressurised, waiting for the order from the Master to enter a side-passageway thick with heat and black smoke. Thankfully, that situation was resolved before we made the entry, but all I remember thinking was “I never want to do this for real”.

The seafarer mental health crisis runs deeper than training

The seafarer mental health crisis runs deeper than training

Seafarer mental health is a hot topic right now, and rightly so. When you consider the many dangers that come with working on a ship, it is incredible to think that suicuide is the leading cause of death at sea. Statistically you are just as likely to develop a mental health problem ashore as you are at sea (around 25% of us in any year), but the suicide rate at sea is nearly four times higher than ashore. It is clear from those statistics that what’s lacking is intervention rather than prevention.

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A career in maritime? Isn’t that just a very big (lonely) office at sea?

A career in maritime? Isn’t that just a very big (lonely) office at sea?

There’s been plenty of discussion over the last few years on how to make the Merchant Navy an attractive career choice for young people.  We’ve gently mocked the new millennials a few times on these blogs, referencing their inability to be in a given place without a WiFi code.  I have little doubt that in the not-too-distant future, the generic greeting from one human to another will be boiled down to “Hi, how are you and can I have your WiFi password?”  

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What technology is the next generation of seafarers expecting?

What technology is the next generation of seafarers expecting?

The future of seafarers?

Millennials are everywhere, we are now the largest generational cohort in the workforce and maritime is no exception. We have infiltrated shipping companies around the world with our skinny jeans and snowflake attitudes, both at sea and ashore.  But just as those of us in the “me me me” generation are considering moving out of our parents’ homes, there is a new kid on the block.

Those born in the late nineties and early noughties, known as Generation Z,  are now entering the workforce in droves. This new generation has no memory of a time when the United States was not at war with terrorism, they saw their parents go through the 2008 financial crisis, and they don’t remember the days when you had to make a choice between being on the phone or being on the internet. To celebrate the arrival of our young colleagues into our industry I’m taking a break from hand-roasting coffee and shaping my beard to ask what technology will this new generation of seafarers expect?

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The Curious Case of the Missing Ship

The Curious Case of the Missing Ship

Many ports are getting smarter, but ships are not yet fully-integrated into most smart port collaboration platforms.  Matt Kenney takes a look at why, and asks what shipping can do to bridge the divide.

Earlier this year I attended a port innovation symposium where an international group of port and technology thought leaders discussed current and future trends in digital port operations.

I listened to speakers describe port collaboration systems, port community systems, terminal operating systems, and the transposition of data into new, more secure formats like blockchain. All of these technologies are convening, if not yet conspiring, to deliver solutions for the lean, digitally-enabled maritime supply chain of tomorrow. Although opinions differed on methods and timescales, the speakers did agree on the notion that we are amidst a tectonic shift in port value chains. Enabled by Industry 4.0, this shift will bring new efficiencies to the quayside, hailing a fundamental change in attitude towards intermodal port supply chain partners.

However, as the discussions began to conclude, I sensed something was amiss. Indeed, I felt there was an elephant in the room: a top-level, international collective of thought leaders from the cutting edge of port technology and innovation, had astonishingly, failed to mention one word: ‘Ship’!

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