Greek Business File, January-February-March 2019, No. 119

SHIPPING by Suzanna Laskaridis



Shipping markets have become a lot more complex in recent years with companies facing intense competition and a plethora of often restricting regulations that they have to comply with. Digitalisation has affected many industries in the past years; however, the shipping industry is one of the last to grapple with it mainly due to the complexities of the industry itself



Although the maritime industry is still deeply traditional, its technology is rapidly changing; many different innovations, solutions, and principles are being proposed and gradually integrated into shipping such as:


– Sustainable shipping from an ecological perspective

– Alternative fuels like LNG and biofuels

– Emission reduction of carbon footprints

– Unmanned and autonomous ships

– Big data analytics

– Networks of wireless sensors

– Ship to shore Communications

– Robotics and other artifi cial intelligence systems

– Port Analytics



The Ship of the Future


There have been numerous discussions regarding the Ship of the Future. There seems to be little focus, however, on the fact that the ship of the future cannot operate with ship management of the past. Therefore, the Ship Manager of the future would be a company fully equipped to handle the challenges brought by digitalisation.


This would further require setting upand developing real time control centres that will manage these smart ships and instruct/guide them to increase and improve things such as:


  • Voyage efficiency, by adjusting the operation parameters
  • Safety, by alerting the crew for any possible upcoming risks
  • Ability  to control the ship from a central position thus decreasing the number of crew members needed on a ship, and reducing labour costs.


From the industrial to the digital age


We have moved from the industrial age to the digital age with a huge leap in technological development. Data is collected on the go and processed intelligently. This allows for a whole new quality and type of communication where time and space are recalibrated.


The effects of the digital revolution have been felt in the way we think and operate, which has changed with the use of smart phones, while transforming traditional business models. However, the prerequisite in order to attain the gradual upgrade of shipping to the so-called “smart” business model of the future will be the drastic change of the mentality of the human resources in order to make the above principles workable.


Therefore, an obvious challenge for the future of shipping is, in fact, the upgrading of the “human factor” culture involved in the maritime industry.


The approach to data capturing is fragmented. Similar data has to be sent to different vendors and processes are time consuming and ineffi cient. To counter this, maritime companies are developing internal platforms and entities to ensure efficiency and data security.


This will require the further introduction of new specialties to be incorporated to the existing structure of the shipping company tasked with the overall digital upgrade of the ship manager. Naturally, these positions as well as the various roles that they take on, will vary based on the complexities of the operations, the size of the fleet managed and the quality and skillset of the existing personnel.


Some of the positions that arise may be fairly obvious, some may already exist in shipping companies, some, however, may be more specific and related to the very precise, mostly technical, skills required.


One important issue currently is the lack of sufficiently data-skilled workforce for the numerous position arising.


At this point, I would like to briefly mention what defines “big data”. Some but not all of the defining features of big data are:


  • Flexibility

Big data is fl exible data. In the past, all specific types of databases stored and controlled data with the use of constant data structures; this isn’t the case with big data. Fast data transformation is a crucial part of the use of big data.

  • Real-time results

All data is collected and has the ability to be stored in real time; one of the most important components and uses of this type of data.

  • Machine learning applications

Machine learning, which we will be discussing a bit further on, is one of the cornerstones of the importance of big data, allowing the data collected to become predictive.


An interesting point to note is that some of these innovations apply to various departments of the maritime industry. Some examples are:


  • Big Data Analysis

Analysing all automation derived data from the vessels in order to evaluate it and put it to the best use depending on each specific department.

  • Machine learning techniques

Various machine-learning techniques are applied in shipping in order to monitor the energy efficiency, faults diagnostics, and predictive maintenance in order to achieve the vessel’s most efficient

performance. These machine-learning techniques can be viewed as another way of programming, aiming at detecting the development of actual engineering phenomena by monitoring the evolution of the readings taken by sensors.

  • Artificial Neural Networks

Artificial neural networks haven’t come close to modelling the complexity of the human brain, but they have shown to be good at problems that are easy for a human but difficult for a traditional computer, such as image recognition and predictions based on past knowledge.


Artificial neural networks are based on mathematical models, simulating the way the human brain works. When applied to time series, they provide a sophisticated forecasting method, using either linear or non-linear models. In comparison to other methods, neural networks provide a viable alternative, being at least just as accurate and, in many cases, yielding impressive results. A common difficulty is that only repetitive tests can answer the question of which network to use in each case, as the researcher is faced with a large number of options.


Uses of Big Data in the Shipping industry


  •  Predicting Repairs and Structural Integrity which leads to better planning = Less Time Lost = Lower Costs
  • Prediction of Port State Control Results allowing for better planning
  • Self-Piloting Ships—Less Room for Human Error (No.1 cause of accidents)
  • Cargo Tracking which brings better Delivery Estimates—Less Time Lost = Lower Costs
  • Centralised Knowledge—Better Accuracy for constantly changing weather patterns
  • Current and Future Design of the vessels. Current refers to more efficient and cost effective navigation—Future refers to better and more sufficiently designed ships
  • Port Analytics to connect the sea and land logistic chain in order to streamline the flow of goods.


Moving on to specific departments affected, at first glance, an obvious department of the Shipping Company that would be aff ected would be the Information Technology Department.


Information Technology Department


  • Data protection officer / Security Expert

As the EU moves ahead with its data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) companies are required to develop positions that will help them comply with the Regulation.

  • Cybersecurity Officer

Communications have grown greatly with the use of Wi-Fi and 5G connectivity, having created a fully connected ship. A platform of devices connected to the internet, therefore, requires a person to deal with all cyber security issues that may arise.

  • Big data and data analytics engineer

The problem with Big data is not the gathering of data but what companies do with it and how they evaluate it. Big data alone means nothing without a person with specific skills being responsible for sensor data analysis data centre management, predictive analytics and programming, database management, machine learning and predictive analytics. That person would also have to have knowledge of statistical analytic systems and a strong understanding of the accumulated data. A common problem is that since the collected data is so vast, a very large percentage of effort is required to “clean it up” before anything meaningful can come out of it.


Technical Department


  • Performance Engineer

Follow–up and analysis of the performance records sent from the ships.


Evaluation of the measurements and records received from the ships.


Recommendations and proposals in order to improve the vessel’s performance.


Checking = Monitoring the implementation of the new ISO 19030 standard regarding the practical methods for measuring changes in ship-specific hull and propeller performance by following

performance indicators:


– Effectiveness and performance of drydocking

– In-service performance and effectiveness of antifouling and other systems


  • Advanced Materials Engineer

Although metal will remain a dominant material in the shipping industry, its components will be refined through research development and the implementation of advanced materials (known as microscale or nano-scale manipulation materials) for ship structures and new coatings that will provide corrosion protection as well as anti-fouling.


  • Remote monitoring Engineer

Development and implementation of new generation sensors’ wireless technologies able to collect data from the ship autonomously and relay them in real time to the company for condition

monitoring analysis will be reducing the need for regular visits on board at remote locations.

  • Drone Manager

During routine maintenance, human inspectors can be replaced by drones in order to achieve reduced cost and increase safety and efficiency. All data collected is then analysed by an off -shore Superintendent. This method of inspection signifi cantly reduces the risk to human life during essential maintenance mostly when it comes to enclosed space entry.

  • Advanced Power and Propulsion

Technologies Marine Engineer Development and application of advanced power generation and propulsion technologies (diesel, electric, and hybrid propulsion) with alternative fuels, energy saving devices, renewable energy, and hybrid power generation units.


Newbuilding Projects and Ship Design

  •  Design of eco-ships and “green vessels” in order to increase the speed  while reducing fuel consumption. Experts in ships’ automation will be in continuous close contact with innovation teams in order to fi nd new technologies and implement them to the vessels.

For example: Ballast free or Non Ballast Free Vessels, reduction of CO2 footprint, reduction of GHG emissions etc.



Operations Department


This is a department where Big Data is and will be extensively used for better voyage efficiency.


  • Big Data Analyst

– Analysis of data collected from various sources such as oceanographic data, weather data, maritime accidents data, voyages’ abstracts and cargo operations data in order to improve the ship’s operation.

– Evaluation of the detailed records regarding the sea passage (time, speed, weather, consumption, optimal routing); MRV emission reports, IMO data collection system (DCS), cargo operations and cargo sequence, ballasting/deballasting, etc. in order to monitor and propose possible improvements regarding the economical operation of the ships.

– Development of land-based control centres for the remote monitoring and control of unmanned ships.


Regarding MRV emission reports, ship operators are required to monitor and report amount of CO2 emitted by their vessels on voyages to, from, and between EU ports. This is one of the few data oriented regulations.


  • Drone Control Manager

Drones are already used to deliver small parcels, or urgent spare parts or mail, on board vessels.


Ship agents in Europe have calculated that using drones rather than launch boats can help reduce costs by up to 90% for vessel operators and ship managers. This is also better from a safety point of view. Whereas a traditional launch boat uses cranes, ropes, and climbing crew to deliver parts, a drone is a less labourdependent mode of delivery.



Chartering Department

– The use of Artifi cial Neural Networks allows the detection of signifi cant correlations between freight rates that can aid with the possible prediction of freights.

– Use of vetting platforms—RightShip is an example of a platform currently using predictive analytics as a way of evaluating a number of issues that may arise on a vessel.

– Use of online freights platforms to enable online e-auctioning from the shippers to compete for the transport of commodities.


These innovative shipping platforms invite vessel owners and operators to bid, via a secure and confi dential portal.


We might also see vessels becoming “Uber of the seas” with ships sailing around and shippers able to hail the vessels serving their intended route.



Safety & Quality or ISM Department


  • Environmental, Health and Quality Engineer

Follow-up and evaluation of the new and future regulations regarding environment and marine pollution (CO2, GHG, SOx, NOx, Ballast Water Treatment, use of LNG and hybrid fuels etc.)

  • Crisis and Media Manager

Responsible for monitoring and managing emergency situations on board and ashore.

Dedicated person to manage company’s media and respond to press enquiries and social media enquiries.

  • Vetting Manager

As already mentioned in the Chartering department, vetting platforms are used extensively in shipping. This has created the need for in house monitoring of the way the data is collected and processed apart from the preparation of the ships themselves



Supply/ Purchasing Department

  • Collecting data is necessary to increase savings. This can be achieved for example by analyzing the following factors:

1. Inventory fl uctuation and re-supply volume of specific components

2. Ports of supply and calling frequency to specific ports

  • Shipment tracking and real-time monitoring available through websites and daily incoming data about weather forecasting, events, holidays or other factors. All this available data may have a positive infl uence on a shipment and be of help in decision-making, thus reducing delays.
  • Making better use of available marine traffic information. This can be necessary for better shipment decision-making in case there is a lack of information about a vessel’s ETA.



3D Printing Technology Expert & Engineer


3D printing for critical spares has been used on board ships for a few years now and with it comes the need for qualified personnel and with it comes the need for qualified personnel.


There exists a multitude of applications for 3D printing being used for the innovation of new products through rapid prototyping and the improvement of already existing product designs. It also gives seafarers the opportunity to repair or reproduce obsolete parts on location.


As a general note, 3D printing itself is expected to change the way goods flow to the market in the container business as well as the transport of raw materials. The potential effect of 3D printing production is reflected in investments in 3D printing technologies by various sectors such as the engineering, automotive and consumer goods sectors.


Many items will not have to be shipped as they will be printed on the spot, whereas the actual commodity traded will be the digital pattern for the items.



Crew Department

  • Marine Personnel Business Analyst

Responsible for creating and keeping updated electronic data in the company’s current pool together with CVs, and crew readiness certificates, as well as adjusting automated crew planning system.


Furthermore, the classic role of the Crew Manager will be diversified towards the following positions:

1/ Crew Change Operator

Responsible for the crew changes (agents, tickets, visas etc). He/she collaborates with the Marine Personnel Business Analyst to monitor the movements of crew, sharing their location with the crew department (onboard, during joining and repatriation) in order to ensure crew safety and avoid delays.

2/ Crew Performance Evaluator

Arranges psychometric tests for people on board and ashore, discusses and evaluates the complaints of the seamen with the aim to improve the quality of the company’s pool. He/she also keeps and updates the electronic evaluation system of the seamen/women.



Legal & Insurance Department


In respect of the digitalisation of the Legal & Insurance sector of the maritime industry some new areas will be:

  • Legal databases

The further advancement and extensive use of online legal research platforms and other legal databases of commercial law knowledge, from trusted legal sources (arbitration awards, court decisions etc.).

  • Insurance

Blockchain applications may offer various benefits such as:

– Smart Insurance Cover Contracts automated claims for fewer processing delays and lower transaction costs

– Increased back end effi ciency (less human error, no data duplication, fewer processing delays, lower transaction costs).

– Better pricing and risk assessment (risk transparency through connected economy)

– New types of Insurance (more transparency, less costs)


We will probably see the first cover on blockchain in the very near future.


This may offer the benefit of quicker processing, but is also open to cyber threats. It remains to be seen whether automatisation will benefit the Insurance sector, which requires personal interaction and input in difficult situations. The difference between the marine insurance sector and the other insurance sectors is that the vessels move around the globe and go to the risks, while in other sectors the risks come to the asset.


To summarise


Digitalisation, one of the most important issues facing the maritime industry together with decarbonisation, is expected to improve business results, by decreasing operating costs while improving the efficiency of operations.


However, the road is not without challenges, since there are some hotly debated topics that digitalisation brings along. One of them is a legal debate of transferring the responsibility previously held by the vessel, the crew, and ultimately the Master, to the Ship Manager and the office staff who now have the ability and the capability to make real-time decisions and to monitor various types of alerts in the office, rather than the ship. Also, online bidding platforms have caused a surge in people evaluating or re-evaluating the need for brokers, their physical presence and knowledge in the industry.


As I mentioned earlier, human adaptability will be key to integrating these innovations within existing structures. This means extensive training, which may lead to previously unknown issues, as well as risk assessments relating to the management of change.


An important paradox to consider however is that although the human element may appear in instances such as this to be the weakest link, it is the human element itself that must not be bypassed by data and numbers, overriding years of experience, whether it is that of the mariners or the people who have dedicated their life to this industry. Shipping is an industry that often relies on people thinking outside the box and taking decisions that a system may be incapable of taking, now or in the future.


It is obvious, therefore, that while the digital revolution is paving new roads, many hurdles have to be surpassed for a smooth transition into the future.




Suzanna Laskaridis studied Fine Art and Media communication before studying Ship Management and completing her master’s degree in Maritime Law from City University of London. She has been in Lavinia Corp. and Laskaridis Shipping Company since 2007 where she deals with all areas of day-to-day management. She is a member of the Board of the Union of Greek Ship Owners, the Hellenic War Risks Association and the United Kingdom Defense Club. She is also the General Secretary and Treasurer of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. In 2016 she founded Real Time Graduates, a non profit initiative that connects young graduates with minimal work experience, with the maritime industry. Real Time Graduates is the first free access database in Greece specifically targeted for the Shipping community with more than 1000 CVs and more than 60 registered companies.