In an interesting interview to Twentyfour7 magazine of Wartsila, the British maritime economist Martin Stopford, non executive president of Clarksons Research Services Ltd, speaks about the technological innovations that may help the traditional shipping industry be transformed into a sustainable digital world. He also explains the largest challenges that the shipping industry is facing ahead of the IMO 2020 compliance and how new technologies can contribute in this direction.
According to Stopford, the maritime industry is very slow to adopt new technologies. This is due to several reasons, he explains. First of all, the business model is commoditised and focuses to lower the operating costs. Furthermore, the industry is highly fragmented while the vessels are not easily accessible by the office staff. A third factor, according to Stopford, is the high variation in the structure of the business; ships are similar but not the same, therefore implementing a standard advanced technology is not always easy.
Despite their slow adoption, new technologies are growing and, suddenly, there are plenty of options available, Stopford says. New technologies can now be used in onboard systems to increase automation as well as in fleet management so as to maximise returns of all the ships in the fleet and get performance evaluation details in many areas of the fleet’s operation.
But how new technologies can assist the shipping industry in the challenges it will face to achieve the 2020 compliance?
According to Stopford, the quality of new bunker fuels is a major issue that the shipping industry will face. Since blending will be mainly based on the sulfur content, different mixes and different input fuels may be used, therefore the composition of the new fuels may highly vary.
Another challenge that market participants may face is related with the availability of complaint fuels. Everyone needs to know how they will deal with a situation where they cannot source complaint fuels, Stopford mentions. Furthermore, disputes may be increased and for this reason the charter parties should be clearly drafted so as liability between the parties to be clear in case inappropriate bunker fuel is used.
Good planning and organisational support are required in order to manage the transition into the 2020 era. However, Stopford moves one step ahead and, in an effort to manage those quality and availability concerns, he highlights the idea of an online platform which shall include information about fuel blends: Availability, quality of fuel blends and buyer’s feedback.
“I am very interested in the idea of a platform to record fuel blends and to get bunker suppliers to put their blends on the platform and to get users to report what they actually got”, Stopford concluded.