“One size doesn’t always fit all, especially when it comes to the digitalisation of a ship. Digitalisation can, and should, be customised to meet the needs of individual companies and vessels,” says Dominique Audion, COO, IEC Telecom Group.
Maritime digitalisation is growing in demand as flexible virtual environments and reduced costs drive operations. “Nowadays, a vessel may perform as a remote office,” Mr. Audion explained. “Each ship has its own requirements for digitalisation that are influenced by its activities, size, type, cargo, fuel, engine, configuration, monitoring, and managing systems. Taking an individual approach is, therefore, the best way to succeed with the digitalisation process.”
According to the State of the CIO, 40 per cent of all technology spending goes to digital transformations, which are being driven by operational efficiencies that are achieved through connectivity. A parallel trend is being observed in the maritime industry, where connectivity is crucial to operations and remote vessel management. As per NSR’s report on the maritime satellite market, equipment manufacturers, fishing, and leisure markets can expect $42 billion in retail revenue between 2018 and 2028 as a direct result of satellite communications and connectivity technologies with VSAT-enabled and digitalised vessels growing from 20,000 in 2018 to over 75,000 by 2028. Furthermore, a report on marine trends by Lloyd’s Register reflects that 10 per cent of new ship building is expected to be smart ships, and maritime in-service units are expected to double in 15 years.
The shipping industry is still adapting to the digital age and there is a level of trepidation in some sectors. However, as a company’s requirements evolve, remotely accessible digital communication systems are easily keeping pace. This has helped to build trust in the digitalisation process, proven to reduce costs and simplify logistics, and enabled efficient remote updates instead of having to bring a vessel into port. The ground-breaking OneGate solution by IEC Telecom is a good example of such a set up. IEC Telecom’s technology enables operators to manage critical vessel functions and crew communication requirements separately via a remotely accessible dashboard, incorporating cutting-edge cybersecurity and a robust back-up provision.
Mr. Audion added, “Even if there is some natural conservatism on cost, the maritime sector is discovering that embracing digital installation can reap many benefits. Today it is possible to enable digitalisation within a controlled budget and vessel operators are finding that their digital vessels are more cost-effective due to increased operational efficiency. By investing in digitalisation, ultimately vessel owners save on their future bills.” Recent analysis by Accenture on the experience of digital value chains reflects that a digitally-reinvented shipbuilder can reduce operating costs by up to 20 per cent in five years while increasing revenue by up to 15 per cent.
France is at the forefront of the drive towards digitalisation. With the French Government and Cisco jointly instituting programs supported by a $100 million investment to transform France into a digital republic, and the EIB and French Société Générale dedicating €150 million towards the digital conversion and modernisation of existing ships and shipbuilding projects, the country’s GDP is expected to be boosted by one to two per cent overall.