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DIGITALIZATION IN SHIPPING  Can global shipping really rise

           to the challenge of rapid digitalization?

                                                       As an industry that was late to the party, we are catching up fast.
                                                       The giant leap forward offered by machine learning and AI is ena-
                                                       bling the maritime sector to take on the challenges of decarbonisa-
                                                       tion, improve efficiency, and lift productivity. From the engine room
                                                       to the chartering desk, there are many areas ripe for innovation
                                                       and improvement through software. But there are still many hur-
                                                       dles to be cleared.

                                                       The first hurdle is to communicate success to the potential end-user. Why
                                                       should your maritime business invest in the latest tech? The maritime
                                                       tech community needs to improve its storytelling and really show how
                                                       new processes have actually transformed their clients’ businesses. Un-
                                                       derstandably, many shipping companies are focused on regulatory com-
                                                       pliance. Going beyond compliance and investing in simple, practical, and
                                                       impactful tech that improves performance is something the maritime
                                                       sector needs help with. This is something innovators must do more of. At
                                                       Signal, we have many success stories to share. Our experience in building
                                                       and investing in software technologies, using technology to increase our
                                                       tanker pools’ profitability, and working with entrepreneurs to develop
                                                       new solutions for the industry give us a unique perspective.
                                                       The second hurdle is data standardisation. In a world of multiple doc-
                                                       uments, platforms, and processes, data standardisation is not going to
                                                       happen simply because a few larger companies lead the way. We oper-
                                                       ate in a highly fragmented marketplace where no single actor is able to
                                                       effect change. Indeed, shipping is, in essence, many different industries
                                                       with huge differences in vessel, cargo and trading patterns. However, AI
                                             is becoming more and more powerful and can eventually help circumnavigate the
                                             problem. Intelligent systems able to recognise and standardise the many ways of
                                             saying the same thing will increasingly negate the need for a set of standards or a
                                             one-size-fits-all solution.
                                             The third hurdle is the need for maritime tech to start from the ground up. Although
                                             the concept of the connected ship has become a reality, vessels are still moving
                                             targets in terms of connectivity. IT literacy onboard is not on a par with what one
                                             might expect in a sophisticated office environment. For example, being late starters,
                                             we lack the shared infrastructure and historic investment the financial sector enjoys.
                                             The huge and flourishing fintech sector stands on the shoulders of towering giants.
                                             The fourth hurdle is the sheer size of the challenge. Shipping’s challenges are global.
                                             As an industry, we can only be as strong as our weakest link.
                                             These four hurdles are not insurmountable. The more we succeed, the more stories
                                             we have to tell. Technology is already helping with repeated and repetitive tasks,
                                             leaving space for humans to build all-important relationships. Application Program-
                                             ming Interfaces (APIs) can be injected into pre-existing client infrastructures to help
                                             create better solutions to day-to-day problems, like freight price discovery, vessel to
                                             cargo matching, and forecasting tonnage supply and demand. The size and complex-
                                             ity of the challenge mean that shipping needs to attract and retain the best brains.
                                             Here, the attraction for a young, skilled, and intelligent person to work in the tech
                                             industry and help a global industry that is only at the start of a profound technical
                                             and operational change is great. For many, shipping is the final frontier.
                                             The Signal Group is part of this wave of change. We are building intelligent systems
            by Dimitris Tsapoulis            that are delivering tangible results. We are attracting data scientists, programmers,
            Chief Operating Officer,         analysts, and maritime professionals. We are confident that this blend will lead to a
            The Signal Group                 long-term solution.

          16  MINERVA IN FOCUS – ISSUE 18 / Q4 2021
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