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Future Trends in Commercial Shipping

David Madden :The world is changing rapidly, as is the shipping industry. There is an increased focus on boosting the green image of shipping, as well as improving efficiency through emerging technologies. The commercial shipping industry has constantly been evolving with a lot of pushes for innovations. Even the past few years have been particularly interesting.

Trends such as environmental protection and globalization have changed the landscape of the industry and will continue to influence it for the foreseeable future. These changes are making the commercial shipping industry a lot more exciting with new challenges and innovations for workers in the industry to take on.

When observing the changes taking place in the commercial shipping industry, some emerging trends can be noticed regarding business models, technology, and regulations.

Bigger and Better Ships

Nowadays, there are quite a few big behemoths transporting containers by sea. If you are in the shipping industry or are interested in ships, in general, you probably know some examples of large container ships. The Barzan, MSC Oscar, and the Magleby Maersk are all massive behemoths, with lengths over a thousand feet and cargos that would typically require over 5000 trucks to carry.

Container ships have gotten much bigger, better, and improved over the last few years, and this trend looks set to continue. Every year, there are new plans and designs for megaships that are larger than what’s currently available. The rise of containerization and automation has created this trend because of the quicker discharging and loading of vessels.

Increased Specialization

Not too long ago, containers seemed to be the only reasonable way of transporting cargo. Everyone seemed to target the container trade. Today, however, we can see that there is more investment in specialized ships that transport difficult cargos.This trend can be observed in the transportation of refrigerated cargo, chemicals, and heavy machinery, such as cars and trucks. There are even extremely specialized ships that are built specifically for transporting windmill parts. As a result, shipping crews now have specialized knowledge about their ships and cargo.

Going Green
Just like it is in most industries today, and even in many facets of everyday life, there is an increasing focus on environmental friendliness. As the ships get larger and more efficient, there is also continuous innovation that focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of container ships.

Various improvements are being made to reduce carbon and sulfur emissions, and also to improve the performance of propellers and engines. These innovations are just the beginning of the green revolution in commercial shipping, as even more advanced innovations are in the works for a more environmentally friendly industry.

Data Analytics

There is an increasing amount of data being gathered in shipping operations: accident data, cargo data, weather data, etc. This data is being analyzed and used to make shipping operations more efficient.

The technology used for big data analytics has evolved rapidly. This has given shipping companies the ability to discover correlations in the data through the use of advanced algorithms. Spotting these correlations is helping shipping companies make better decisions regarding their operations. Although there are so many benefits of having data and improved analytics, there’s also the issue of security. Commercial shipping operations are going to see an increased need for cyber security and data protection.

Prominence of Robotics and Automated Machinery

A big talking point, not only in the commercial shipping industry, is the use of robots. According to a report on global marine technology trends, by 2030, there will be three new types of robots that would be prominently used in the commercial shipping industry. These robots would have functions such as learning, handling cargo, and inspections in harsh weather conditions and environments.

Along with these robots, new types of monitors, sensors, and remote control technology would be developed and used in the industry. These types of technology would integrate with other aspects of shipping operations and even other emerging technology, such as big data and the internet of things. As a result, the need for human interaction with dangerous processes would be significantly reduced.

Advanced Communications and Connectivity

With the growth in communication technology, such as Wi-Fi and 5G connectivity, commercial shipping vessels are expected to be more connected to shipping operators. Improve connectivity would allow these operators to easily and effectively monitor ships through technologies such as live audio streams, recording devices, and HD video streams.

Operators are then able to make real-time decisions regarding ship management and operations through this technology. Operators are also able to monitor the welfare of the crew and know if any urgent issues need to be addressed.

Autonomous Vehicles

There is a trend of autonomous vehicles in various transport-based industries, from the automotive industry to aviation. So, in the future, you can expect to see more of these vehicles being used, even in the maritime shipping industry. Just like cars and planes, shipping vessels could be increasingly automated.

These autonomous vessels will change the landscape of the industry, and they would be commercially viable because of their cost-efficiency and used in more harsh work environments such as mining, oil, and gas operations.

Alternative Fuels and Energy Conservation

A lot of investment is currently being made in the discovery of alternative fuels and renewable energy. With climate change having more prominence in global affairs, strict regulations on carbon emissions could be implemented by governments around the world. Thus, the need for alternative and emission-free sources of power such as hydrogen fuel could increase.

The shipping industry is expected to adopt these new technologies and test them on smaller vessels before being implemented on a large scale

Author Bio: David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger and ExchangerHub. His passion is to save businesses money and make North American manufacturing and distribution companies more competitive in the global market. He holds a degree in Industrial Engineering and has a Masters in Business Administration, as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrysler Quality Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.