April 20, 2023

Internet of Things – Why IoT also matters at sea

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, propelled by soaring demand, the (container) shipping industry has seen income and profitability skyrocket to unprecedented record-breaking levels.

Being a cyclical industry, a downturn was however inevitable. Freight levels have dropped drastically over the previous months, with shipping lines meanwhile warning of fallen profitability for 2023 and beyond. In other words, shipowners, charterers and vessel operators are under pressure again to boost competitivity, optimize operations and reduce fuel consumption, with the latter still being the largest operational cost component for container shipping. 

In the coming years, the maritime industry is expected to be characterised by a boom in the use of digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and blockchain, to improve efficiency, increase profitability, safety, and last but not least sustainability. 

Connected smart vessels will reap the benefits of IoT in a variety of ways

Deep-sea shipping will undergo a revolution as IoT and other digital technologies are transforming the way vessels are operated. Connected smart vessels will reap the benefits of IoT in a variety of ways. 

The advantage of embracing IoT tech onboard ships is substantial, since: 

  • Limited connectivity and delayed or unstructured data transfers leave crews operating the vessel with unreliable information, and result in poor visibility of fleet performance for headquarter-based teams; 
  • Deployment and management of multiple non-integrated technical systems on vessels and at landside office are adding cost and complexity, and can be problematic whenever technical issues arise during the sea voyage. 

Embracing IoT onboard of ever becoming larger cargo vessels offers shipowners and charterers the potential to unlock data and value in a wide array of applications. 

By implementing onboard IoT, which is supporting data-driven decision making, vessel operators and ship managers will gain full visibility of vessel performance and insight into fleet operations.  

IoT is an undisputed driver in cost reduction

By connecting on-board systems and devices already available on the vessel, or by adding new devices, shipowners and operators will drive down costs, reduce fuel consumption & GHG emissions and optimize overall vessel performance. IoT is an undisputed driver in cost reduction.

Capturing, analysing and displaying data in such demanding environments and confined spaces, especially below deck (e.g. the engine room or cargo holds), is however challenging. Huge value can be gained from sensor and on-board system deployment. 

Merchant ships are complex digital entities, capable of generating vast amounts of data which remain today to a large extent un(der)utilised. The successful utilization of IoT and sensors in the maritime industry requires a forward-thinking approach to maximize the proven benefits of Industry 4.0. 

IoT also enables new business models and opens new value streams, as well as improving the quality and efficiency of logistics. Sensors not only allow asset tracking and monitoring, but they are also able to provide the status of cargo containers. One specific benefit is monitoring real-time metrics of refrigerated containers. This shortens the time to action and is preventing loss of perishable cargo. 

In order to transform traditional vessels into truly smart ships on the path to Maritime 4.0 an integrated approach will be required. 

From allowing predictive maintenance to decreasing fuel consumption, out of the perspective of companies active in deep-sea maritime transport this all means significantly improving margins by lowering costs and optimizing operations, while making a positive impact on the planet. 

With Sealution’s product offering we want to propel ocean shipping into the 21st century by providing reliable IoT connectivity below deck. 

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