Adopting and implementing a digital agenda requires its own unique skillset. Within the context of shipping, there has historically been no clear path to this. In a multi-faceted industry with continuous cost pressures and slim margins, digital innovation needs to be embraced and applied throughout the supply chain.

But this requires a shift in culture. Such a change can be developed and nurtured from within a company, but it begs the question: how can we ensure optimal, efficient and continual innovation within a fast-paced, ever changing environment?

Stephen Conley HeadshotIt goes without saying that the implications can be intimidating. Investing in a core infrastructure needs to come with guarantees – namely, will this keep us ahead of the curve by generating consistent operational improvements? Evidencing real, tangible benefits to customers and suppliers is crucial for the up-take of digital technologies. While deep learning via big data collection – to take an example I’ve recently worked through with a client – seems like a forward-thinking tactic, such data is only useful if it can be applied to enable a measurable efficiency improvement.

Digital innovation is continuous, and we are at the stage where the technology and resource to exact measurable improvement is available. Harnessing these tools through the power of connectivity opens up a wealth of benefits.

One such route is communications, and in many ways it’s the backbone of maritime logistics. From seafarers at sea and ashore, to ship owners and operators, real-time data transference is vital for the success of the industry. Satellite-enabled technology is the cornerstone of this global information network. By being better connected, there will be more training opportunities leading to highly skilled workers with more commercially-savvy choices, offering a real competitive edge to those who use it.

Not only will vessel operation be optimised via the wealth of digital tools available, but the safety, welfare and job satisfaction of seafarers can be exponentially increased. Investing in seafarers’ wellbeing, whether that’s providing crucial offshore training to ensure a highly skilled workforce, or enabling a crewmember to video-call friends and family, helps bolster the shipowner as a progressive employer.

The technology to be hyper-connected is already here. It’s well acknowledged that this has not always been the case, and all too often substandard connectivity has been provisioned to those at sea under the guise of something more reliable.

However, connectivity at sea can, and should, be as effective as land-based services. SES Networks’ Signature Maritime Solutions leverage an extensive geostationary satellite network supported by our Skala Global Platform, a next-generation ground system, to keep seafarers and vessels connected across the length and breadth of the world’s oceans. By investing in a solution such as this, maritime experts have the opportunity to get several steps ahead. With the connectivity foundations laid, digitalisation will be smoothly integrated and the commercial benefits of new technologies will be realised sooner.

While future technology developments are difficult to predict, preparing for advancement across all sections of the supply chain is a good place to start. In order to remain competitive, investing now for a digital future of seamless, global communication will drive higher standards across the board, and ensure that maritime is ready to reap the benefits of a progressive future.

By Stephen Conley, Global Maritime Segment Lead, SES Networks

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