Maritime and port innovation space

As the maritime and port sectors embrace new technologies and new ideas to meet the ever-increasing challenges of the industry, businesses must decide what new solutions they need to help improve their efficiencies.

Some of the key areas of investment within the industry are international trade ideas, new digital technologies to enable easier shipping and communications, improved port and ship infrastructure, and supply chain and logistics solutions. How does a business ensure that when the new idea is implemented it will work and be sustainable? That is the challenge and because new technology changes very quickly keeping up with that rapid pace of change is very important.

International Trade

To start, investing in new ideas for transporting goods around the world and optimizing international trading routes is so important for the maritime and port industry. Most cargoes around the world are transported via sea and ensuring they reach their final destination as quickly as possible without being damaged is essential. Therefore, picking the right ports and the quickest sea route is needed.  Businesses are currently doing this, with major shipping companies coming up with a number of innovations to enable a range of cargoes to be transported – everything from general cargo, bulk cargo, liquid cargo and beyond.  New ship technology i.e. improve ship designs is one enabler to increase international trade efficiencies.

Thinking back in history during the age of exploration, they had no idea what to expect as they navigated across vast oceans into the unknown to discover new lands, trade their goods and more.  The shipping industry is very old and as time has progressed new trading routes have opened, canals have cut the travelling distance and as polar ice caps have melted shipping lanes have opened.  Therefore, looking back into the past it is easy to see just how far international trade has evolved.

Today, shipping alliances have formed and shipping companies have their regular delivery routes from port A to port B and more.  Shipping companies, logistics providers, freight forwarders and ports are continuously coming up with new ideas for new trading routes, changing the port that they deliver their commodities to and gaining new trading partners.  Ports themselves are continuously considering new commodities that can be traded through their port and working on keeping their existing customers.

Trading route optimization and selection is being improved through the use of technology that shows the quickest way to get from A to B.  As more accurate and timely data becomes available the selection of the best trade route becomes easier for business. Additionally, the trading routes are impacted by a number of factors including the location of the manufacturing centers, the location of the end buyer, the location of the port, the capacity of the port to handle the cargo, the supply and demand of the goods and even more besides. Businesses are working on improving their trading routes through these new technologies, collaboration, and new shipping alliances. In addition, to sea trade, businesses are also investing in land transport and air transport. These will be explored further under supply chain and logistics.

Trading goods is also about ensuring partnerships, collaboration and sales. Businesses work out the demand for their product, collaborate, sell the product and consider share markets, pricing, and legalities across borders for the transportation of the goods. International trade includes so many factors, from handling documentation around the sale of the goods, financials and transportation of the goods right through to liaising with all the stakeholders involved. Partnerships include communication and networking between countries, businesses and individuals. Therefore, businesses are constantly working on improving their sales, improving their partnerships as well as finding the best way to transport their goods. New partnerships and collaboration is essential to constantly move the industry forward.

Digital and Technology

One of the biggest enablers for the port and maritime industry is the development of new digital and technological solutions. There is always a need for companies and start-ups to come along and innovate new technology solutions that enable quick access to real time information and data.

Some of the digital and technology solutions are aiming to do the following:

  • Increase the information sharing capacity and access to real time data across the industry and supply chain network
  • Improved handling of documentation and decreased use of paper documents
  • Removing the risk of cyber security attacks and improve security for the industry
  • Improve shipping and port capabilities and increase turn around times through the use of new innovations and technology development i.e. automation, AI, drones, software solutions, wearable’s, IoT, improve ship designs, and even underwater technologies etc.
  • Improve the environment through inventing new ways to green up the industry and clean up our waterways

There are so many new inventions being developed by talented individuals and companies to help answer a number of questions, some specific to the industry and some generalised. Therefore, there is such a big focus on new technologies and digital solutions within the industry and businesses must keep up with these changes.


As shipping companies and manufacturers change their technologies and ships increase in size, ports are investing in new infrastructure to cope with demand. Improving the port’s capabilities includes many facets including:

  • Port expansion to enable more ships at the port i.e. more wharfs and berths
  • Port maintenance to constantly increase the overall efficiency of the port i.e. upkeep of roadways, wharfs etc.
  • The purchase and implementation of specific port infrastructure

Additionally, other related businesses are also improving their infrastructure, their warehouses, production facilities and more to meet their demand. Shipping companies are also developing more shipping infrastructure and having more ships constructed to handle more cargo.

Supply Chain and Logistics

Many stakeholders are involved with the trading of goods, from the manufacturer, to seller, the buyer, the inland logistics centre, third party logistics providers and more besides. Ensuring that the supply chain network is optimal and that everyone involved can do their job is essential. Businesses are focusing on improving their supply chain capabilities by doing the following:

  • Increasing collaboration and communication across the network i.e. making sure everyone is apart of the process
  • Improving the inland logistics centre’s and hubs i.e. investing in more storage centre’s and inland ports
  • Improving their road, sea and rail capabilities and networks so that goods can be transported and international trade possible
  • Integrating their technologies and developing new ones

Change Management

Investing in all these new ideas is fantastic, but how does an old industry make them a reality so everyone adopts them? The one thing about managing any new project or implementing a new sustainable solution is to ensure that the solution is the right fit for your organization and that it can and will be adopted by all stakeholders within the company and beyond. You can have the best solution, but if the employees or users find it too difficult it will not necessarily be a fit for your company or your clients and key stakeholders who will be using it.

Change management involves collaboration, involving, sharing, delivering innovations that are new and needed, providing training, trialing the solution, and getting input and feedback. Sometimes new ideas take time and they must be easy to use.

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About the Author: Cassandra Madden

I am a maritime professional, innovator, history researcher and writer. I started the business CassLea Maritime in 2016 to offer consulting services and to innovate within the industry.

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