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Commercial shipping requires complex planning, the input of a vast number of different departments, and the use of heavy-duty, expensive materials. There is an increasing demand to make operations more straightforward to reduce the need for unnecessary journeys and maximize profitability for suppliers and retailers.

There is a massive amount of data on trends in the shipping industry, and experts hope to improve and streamline the process by using this historical information and combining it with modern techniques and technology.

Becoming more environmentally-friendly

There is concern over the carbon footprint left by current shipping operations.
The industry is relatively non-eco-friendly due to the use of materials that can rust and corrode and are challenging to recycle, the amount of fuel required to power the enormous shipping industry, and the large number of routes that take place each day.

There are significant advancements in renewable energy that could reduce fuel consumption going forward. Alternative fuels, such as solar power through panels and wind power from turbines, could be used to partially-power ships.

Also, the advent of low-carbon fuels, more streamlined hulls, and more effective propeller design combine to make the shipping industry more environmentally-friendly.

Robotics and automated machinery

Shipping companies could improve their operational efficiency by introducing robots that perform many of the tasks that humans currently perform. It’s possible that within the next 10-years, there could be robots capable of handling material, carrying out inspections in hazardous weather, and even driving ships.

There is also the possibility of adding sensors that provide information on every aspect of a ship’s performance and communicate details about faults in real-time to a supervisor back onshore. While there would be an up-front investment in these technologies, they would repay the investment many times over in the long-run.

Internet of things (IoT)

While on their own, these technologies offer significant advantages, the advantages are augmented when leveraged in harmony. With improved wi-fi networks and the advent of 5G, all the sensors and systems on a ship can communicate with each other and prompt more efficient reactions.

As there still needs to be human input to ensure technology is working effectively, the robotic and automated elements can send this information back to onshore supervisors. This inter-connectivity provides more data than ever before, enabling companies to make more informed decisions that ultimately lead to better overall performance.

Advanced piloting and journey planning

Logistical teams and a captain currently work together to determine the most efficient shipping routes and to react to inclement weather conditions or busy shipping lanes; technology could perform these functions in the future. Autonomous vehicles are already present in the automobile industry, and the advantages of captain-less ships could improve ship management.

Computers don’t get tired, and they can analyze data faster than humans. These features could make a smart ship more efficient than current supply chain operations. If the journey is continually updated according to current conditions, the ships might be able to take shorter crossing routes.

Larger ships

Trade wars within the global shipping industry involve carriers seeking to improve their cost-efficiency to gain advantages over their rivals. As manufacturers fine-tune their building techniques, we could see more mega-ships in the harbors. This would be particularly helpful for those transporting larger cargo, such as companies that specialize in container shipping.

The largest ship in the world can currently carry just over 20,000 containers. Shipping companies can offer significantly lower transportation costs by using these giant cargo transporters.

Improved port management

Even before ships arrive at the port, onboard technology can alert the operators of their arrival time and what cargo they have on board. Many companies already use smart containers that feature cheap and disposable tracking units to keep tabs on each shipment.

Faster loading and unloading, possibly using robots, enables ships to dock and head back out to sea more quickly. Not only does this improve efficiency but it reduces carbon emissions from ships that are waiting in the queue at the port.

Liquified natural gas (LNG)

While renewable forms of fuel are preferable, ships are likely to need natural fuels as well. In comparison to diesel, LNG can help to reduce emissions by up to 25%. Oil fuels may continue to dominate the market in the near future, but LNG is likely to gain ground due to its competitive price and it helps carriers meet their carbon footprint targets.

Final Thoughts

Marine technology is advancing rapidly, and the possibilities for improved efficiency, reduced transportation costs, and more accurate real-time information mean there may be enormous changes in the coming years.

To discuss how your company can stay on top of the trends and embrace the future of commercial shipping, contact Asiana USA at (855) 500-1808.

Michael has worked in the transportation industry for two decades and is interested in how modern technology is impacting the future of customer service within commerce.
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