Maritime technology applied to the entire industry has allowed not only shipping lines to become digital but also that ports, terminals, ship manufacturers, freight forwarders and even port cities change the way they see, act and cope with the issue of sustainability. On land or sea, maritime operations have become a digital business but are they sustainable too?
Whenever we talk about sustainable maritime technology we shall imagine a world related to a 100% digitized and automated international logistics industry. That has not yet been achieved in the business, but the advances are impressive and the maritime technology is making great contributions to achieve that goal.
We are facing a chain of events in technological innovation applied to the maritime sector, which pursues goals in terms of energy, social and economic evolution that benefits everyone. The motivation, in addition to the collective awareness, was driven by regulations established by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) about climate change and the contributions that the maritime industry should make to avoid it.
Which are the sustainable maritime technologies that are being applied in the industry?
In addition to the processes’ digitization and automation which allow paper savings, reduction of administrative and operational times, therefore costs, Maersk for instance, is also focusing its efforts on fuel savings. It is also working on the development of new biofuels, which allows a considerable reduction of pollutant gas emissions from its vessels, taking advantage of sustainable maritime technology.
In the first case, Maersk was the first shipping company to install a wind solution to its Pelican tanker with Rotor Sails Solutions of Norsepower, a Finnish clean technology developer group. It is based on two rotor sails that, when the wind is favorable, allow the ship to sustain the speed and time while saving fuel and reducing gas emissions, by turning off the engine function. In the second case, and in alliance with the US Navy, it is testing a seaweed-based biofuel with its Kalmar container ship, which covers the Germany – India route.
This commitment of Maersk with the use of sustainable maritime technology is one of the reasons why it already has almost 3000 employees on its technological team. For sure, this amount will continue to grow because technology keeps going forward and the industry’s top company can’t be left behind.
Other companies in the industry are also investing in this matter and that is why we cannot ignore the development of autonomous navigation vessels, some of which are already in testing and are 100% electric. The advances in the use of this technology will allow in the future the development of what so far is a European Community project: to place inland electrical connections so that ships feed on them during their stay in port, which would reduce pollutant gas emissions at port cities.
And as for the port sector, the number of ports 4.0 is increasing worldwide as well as terminals that use drones for their daily measurement and surveillance operations, gantry cranes operated by remote control and using virtual reality (like in Gijón port – Spain), and many other maritime operations that are carried out using IoT, Big data, Blockchain Technology, etc.
Sustainable maritime technology definitely continues to focus mainly on digital developments, but in this aspect, not everything has been said or invented yet. It is an opportunity area, so will you take full advantage of it?