More about Maritime Innovation: Past and Future

When we think of the future of shipping and related industries including ports, most people think of technology innovation, smarter fuels and power sources, improved infrastructure and enhanced safety to name a few things. The industry is continuously innovating with the most amazing new innovations, from improved real time data sharing and automation through to the use of wind and electricity powered vessels. How do we imagine goods and people will be transported via sea in the future? What will the ports of the future look like and how with they cope with the shipping changes?

It is hard to imagine in our generation that all ships across the whole world will be fully automated. However, the things that the maritime industry are working on now are interesting and varied including the teaching of new technology-based skills to maritime professionals. Controlling ships remotely and making sure all seafarers have the technology, safety and navigation skills is so important to the industry. When ships are automated it has a run on effect for other industries, as well as industry training and employment.

The focus is on the future, but what about our past? Here we take a quick glimpse into our past before listing our  future innovations and areas the maritime industry is investing.  How have we reached this point in our maritime sector? Back in our history when our ancestors were making their first ocean crossing on rafts, logs and dug out canoes exploring vast and distant lands what were they thinking? The maritime innovations that have occurred throughout the history of the industry are just as amazing as the innovations occurring in the sector today. In fact, we are utilising some of our past technologies and innovations such as wind power to propel the industry forward while being sustainable. Using our ocean highways to trade goods in the past was a strategic decision that enabled advancements in trade, commerce as well as exploration and globalisation. Civilisations that leveraged their seafaring capabilities were in a position of advantage. Being able to transport goods via sea was necessary and having the best ships to do so very important. Even earlier still developing ways to travel across water enabled humans to fish further from the shore and have a larger supply of food sources. In order to develop new technologies understanding the past and how we reached this point in the sector is so important. We can see a gradual shift and change in our history of water transport: from rafts, canoes and paddle power, to wind power, fuels and electricity as one example

Some areas important to the maritime and port industries in a summary include:

  • Effective maritime training for industry professionals considering changes within the industry i.e. technology innovation, change of skills required etc. (see the importance of change management in the previous blog);
  • New and improved fuel options for shipping i.e. solar, wind, electric, healthy fuel options, LNG hybrid etc. in alignment with the sulphur cap 2020 and for improving the environment;
  • Ship and technology connectivity i.e. remaining fully connected in real time;
  • Cybersecurity and the safe management of maritime data with the use of improved technology, such as blockchain and other safety measures;
  • Managing the health and safety of maritime professionals and making sure they are fit for work and can preform their jobs without incident (linked to maritime training);
  • Developing new and innovative shipping automation options to enable ships to be fully unmanned;
  • Improving International trade relations across the world to increase trade productivity and the opening of new trade routes;
  • Maritime defence capabilities and innovations within the navy;
  • Employing more women in the industry;
  • Other technology innovations i.e. maritime and port systems, AI, drones, IoT, online forms and data input, and much more besides; and
  • Maritime law – ensuring shipping companies are compliant and that all paperwork and legal requirements are met.

Of course, this list does not display every single facet across the maritime sector or everything impacting the sector in 2018, but it shows some of the areas that are important, and areas the industry is investing.

The key points here are that learning from the past helps the maritime sector move forward, and that the maritime sector although it is an old industry, is continuing to innovate and change.

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