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European Tech

ENTERING THE

DIGITAL DOMAiN By Paul Bartlett, European Contributing Editor

Shipping to play catch up and transform its business models

I

n a few months’ time, a stretch of water off the coast of Finland is likely to be earmarked for a series of trials involving increasingly automated ships and the testing of ‘intelligent fairways’. The two initiatives are related and intended not only to raise safety standards and increase efficiency, but also to establish Finland’s position as a pioneer of shipping’s digital transformation. The country has plenty of competition. Last September, a significant area of Norway’s Trondheimsfjord was designated as a testing site for autonomous shipping—the world’s first. Kongsberg, headquartered in Norway, is closely involved in the project and is using the site to test a range of components and software that will pave the way for greater autonomy and remote control. There may be plenty of people who still regard this process with suspicion or complete disbelief, but you won’t find many of these among companies who are 20 Marine Log // May 2017

spearheading the maritime digitalization drive in northern Europe. Even some senior government figures are already on board. Announcing the intelligent fairways testing a few months ago, Finland’s Minister of Transport and Communications, Anne Ber-

The marine business is in for a huge change. ner, declared: “Testing of intelligent fairways is a great leap towards autonomous vessel traffic, based on intelligent automation. In my view, intelligent automation is the key to enhancing maritime safety, reducing

emissions and improving productivity.” Kongsberg is just one of a number of European companies that have business models based on digitalization, more automation, the new era of real-time ship-shore communications, and a fully integrated global supply chain in which “maritime” is no longer the disconnected link. As usual, shipping has more than its fair share of resistors and there are plenty of ship managers and operators who cannot imagine life without noon reports. But the advocates of the digital journey point to other industries where technology and the new opportunities it presents have been wholeheartedly embraced. Take the dirty and dangerous mining business. BHP Billiton is using robotic drills and driverless trucks in its Australian iron ore mines. Rio Tinto has commissioned more than 70 giant trucks, the size of small houses, to shift huge volumes of iron ore

Marine Log May 2017  
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