Someone, somewhere said that “Necessity is the Mother of Innovation.” Meaning, when we are faced with a situation that current measures or practices cannot address, then we come up with new ideas on how to solve it. The COVID-19 global pandemic is a perfect example of where the need for innovation is warranted to face a foe that cannot be defeated by traditionally known means.
Victor Restis, a Greek shipping magnate and president of Enterprises Shipping & Trading S.A., points to areas where technology, old and new, can transform the global shipping industry. He admits that the shipping industry, like all others, regularly update processes and equipment with the latest available technologies, but there is more on the horizon. One area I find interesting is the concept of slow steaming. This is where cargo ships slow down to burn less fuel. With the shipping industry under a mandate to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels in the next 30 years, this is a good starting point but will need a lot more to accomplish its 2050 goals.
IoT (Internet of Things) is also an exciting technology that further connects us to all the machines and services we use every day. Machine learning is a bit scary. This implies that machines can be taught (programmed) to learn on their own. To find reason through historical data (millions of data points by the way) to make a decision. IoT is already being used for machines to communicate its state of operational health to engineers and mechanics. This is undoubtedly very cool. Imagine a machine sending you a text message saying, “Hey, I am about to break down because a bolt is loose near the pump.” Well, I am sure the machine would use far more sophisticated language, but you understand what I mean.
The article states that global shipping is very far from being completely automated, which is a massive sigh of relief for the two million-plus seafarers and maritime employees, which is good. Human resource is our most valuable asset and should be treated respectfully. They are the ones that ensure you can go to the grocery store and buy the food and necessities you need to live your life. One clog in that system and the entire chain can break down (temporarily, of course).
COVID-19 has opened my eyes to many things, and innovation in the face of uncertainty sure sounds like the way to go. I hope Mr. Restis and others in global shipping can sit down and figure out where we all go from here when it comes to global supply chains.