The rise of digital technology in shipping is not being reflected in the skill sets within most shipowners, says Paul Fanning
The unstoppable march of digitalisation has been a subject I have consistently returned to in my comments as editor of Marine Propulsion. The reasons for this are clear. Digitalisation, automation and other ‘smart’ technologies are having – and will continue to have – a profound effect on the shipping industry. As such, they cannot be over-emphasised in any serious discussion of the modern marine sphere.
Most agree that, within a few short years, we will see remote monitoring, diagnostics and operation becoming the norm, while the advent of autonomous commercial vessels won’t be far behind.
All these technologies exist and their existence is already changing how shipping works. This is accepted – albeit grudgingly in some quarters – by the industry as a whole. Indeed, shipowners are starting to invest in these technologies with a view to keeping up with the pace of change.
Where there is often a lack of investment, however, is in the personnel who will be needed to co-ordinate this aspect of shipowners’ operations in the coming years and decades. How many shipowners have a team – or even an individual –dedicated to the digital aspect of their operations and with the expertise to understand and exploit the possibilities offered by these technologies?
As stated before, digitalisation is changing shipping – and that means that the skills the industry requires are changing, too. Shipowners need to recognise this or risk falling behind.