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Choice of digitalisation routes open to shipping

The shipping industry will inevitably see a digital transformation happening but it may catch some companies by surprise, while others may be grudgingly forced to adopt it, a panel at the Lloyd’s List Hong Kong Innovation Forum heard. Although there are many commercial applications for technology in shipping, the key to making the best use of them is by collaborative efforts and making use of the technology available, panellists said

Increasing digitalisation means that lines and terminal operators, as well as others in the supply chain, will have to start taking a more collaborative approach to move forward

 

THE shipping industry will inevitably see a digital transformation taking place but it may catch some companies by surprise, while others may be grudgingly forced to adopt it.

There are many commercial applications for technology in shipping but the key to making the best use of them is by collaborative efforts and making use of the technology available, panellists at the Lloyd’s List Hong Kong Innovation Forum said.

“When people are disrupted in any industry, it is usually the incumbents that are the last to see it coming,” said Wah Kwong managing director William Fairclough, kicking off the forum discussion on innovators and outsiders.

“I sense that in the way that data is processed in the industry on the commercial side, we are going to see a huge change in the next two years or so,” added Mr Fairclough. While still quite a long way from the fundamental business of shipping the industry is moving closer to a big data approach to the way information is processed and used to work out pricing, he said.

Mr Fairclough suggested however that in the dry bulk, and tanker chartering and sale and purchase markets that he is most involved in, the way this will happen will be less obvious than in the container shipping and logistics and supply chain sectors. Big data will come into play to some extent in the former, but will ultimately be more intensively used by the latter simply because of the nature of the business.

CargoSmart chief executive officer Steve Siu meanwhile touted the collaborative nature of the Global Business Shipping Network that it is spearheading.

“The lines have been in the position of system integrators all along,” said Mr Siu, noting that they have been able to leverage on their traditionally stronger position in the supply chain to do this.

The increasing digitalisation of the industry now means that they are starting to have to collaborate with the terminal operators more to become part of an integrated supply chain solution. To an extent, GSBN brings together all the players in the industry to take part in a collaborative platform to leverage the benefits of digitalisation.

The challenges of digitalisation for shipmanager Fleet Management’s chief technology officer Shah Irani were somewhat different. “One of the major challenges with any digital transformation is getting the change adopted,” he said. This involved convincing people who were used to doing things a certain way to do things differently by making use of the new systems that are being put in place.

Having the best new systems in place is no use until you get over the hurdle of resistance, Mr Irani added.

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