Here's how technology can digitally transform shipping services. Source: Shutterstock

Here’s how technology can digitally transform shipping services. Source: Shutterstock

Industry insider on how technology can transform shipping services

SHIPPING companies, especially those that own container vessels, typically have more control over how technology impacts them.

However, with leaders such as Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd aggressively chasing digital projects that can help them gain an edge in the marketplace, shipping services are on the verge of being disrupted by technology.

To help shipping service providers understand how technology impacts them and their business, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) has set up a digital transformation committee (DTC).

Tech Wire Asia interviewed SSA DTC Chairman Steen Lund to learn more about the committee’s mission, goals, and plans.

“Shipping today is on the cusp of major changes—many of them brought about by technological disruption.

“It is in this broader context that the SSA has decided to establish a full-fledged DTC to help companies large and small across Singapore’s maritime community seize the opportunities and embrace the challenges, and ultimately sustain Singapore’s lead as a global hub port and international maritime center.”

According to Lund, the SSA believes that its members need to be equipped with the ability to craft and implement a digital strategy — which is why the organization is working with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s Circle of Digital Innovators to co-create a playbook outlining recommended steps to take when going digital.

The DTC Chairman believes that this will be particularly useful for SMEs that may not possess the bandwidth to craft a complete digital strategy.

“Drafting the outlines and key elements to such a task and suggesting tech trends worth exploring will go a long way in activating maritime companies.”

Through the DTC, the SSA hopes to create a forum where members can seek a common approach to topics they have limited past reference to.

“Owners, managers, operators, and ports are all excellent at running their business, but few have experience using digital technologies to strengthen them. We wish for the DTC to become a venue of thought leadership, where members can both challenge and learn from one another – a committee of significant collaboration.”

Lund explained that the DTC also expects to we help members build true digital skills by marrying them with knowledge service providers as well as exposing them to startups, scaleups, and OEM’s delivering products and services for adoption in the industry.

Doing so, of course, will help members accelerate their digital journey without wasting resources on developing digital products and solutions, by themselves, from scratch.

Although the SSA is keen on digitally transforming shipping services and the industry overall, the real question is whether or not members are keen on taking the plunge.

“Shipping companies don’t lack awareness or interest in digital transformation. The fact that more than 200 participants turned up for SSA’s inaugural Tech and Demo Day – and voiced numerous requests for more of such events – is a strong indication of interest.”

According to Lund, the challenge is that shipping companies—particularly the small to medium-sized ones—are typically lean outfits. Their full-time resources are assigned to running the core business as opposed to experimenting with new technology.

The SSA believes its aggregated membership can be leveraged to attract attention from tech service providers – be they startups, scaleups or established industry suppliers.

“Higher demand for technology-based solutions will make the maritime industry a more attractive target to tech-focused companies, who may so far have focused their efforts towards other industries.

“It is hence our job to make Maritime Singapore more rewarding for tech players to interact with – attracting their attention to solve some of the biggest challenges we grapple with, be it automating processes or bringing technology to bear when it comes to solving the long term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.”

Lund believes that the SSA DTC will be particularly helpful to SMEs that lack the organizational strength to undertake digital transformations without any external inspiration or assistance.

The new committee hopes to bring the necessary competence to help determine the steps to take to prioritize implementation of digital products and solutions, and advise SMEs accordingly.

One of the initiatives that the SSA is proud of — and believes showcases the direction that the DTC will take — is its 3D printing project.

“The Joint Industry Program (JIP) on 3D printing is taking shape with participation from the SSA, MPA, and NAMIC. DNV GL is providing project leadership and verifying the feasibility of introducing additive manufacturing processes to the production of spare parts to be consumed onboard ocean-going vessels.”

Lund explained that 10 SSA members have contributed thought leadership by mapping the demand side of which parts they would like to see 3D printed.

The JIP will work on this project till September and then move towards assessing the technical implications as well as the impact to the logistics chain from 3D printing spare parts, rather than using tradition production methods.

If successful, the JIP on 3D printing will definitely take the shipping services industry into a new era where uptime is significantly raised and business operations are improved.

Overall, Lund believes that the SSA is in a great position to help its members charge ahead into the digital era — and upcoming projects are expected to showcase its progress.