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Shipping goes digital

Industry insights from SMM Hamburg 2016

The maritime industry is in turbulent waters as digitization and new technology revolutionize the sector. These were two of the main topics at SMM 2016 in Hamburg, Germany, where over 2,200 exhibitors and around 50,000 visitors gathered to exchange ideas and innovations.

Every two years, tens of thousands of people meet in Hamburg at SMM, the world’s leading maritime trade fair. The event provides an ideal platform for ship owners, shipbuilders, and ship operators to discuss the future of the industry. This year, all the latest innovations were on show, and for the first time ever, there was a brand-new hall dedicated to environmentally-friendly technology.

For exhibitors and visitors alike, there were many opportunities to establish new contacts and deals. This is something that Martin Johannsmann, CEO of SKF Marine, insists is vital today: “As a result of the market situation, we are witnessing increasing consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions. Also, strategic partnerships now play a crucial role in the success, and even survival, of maritime companies.”

Strategic partnerships have become crucial to the survival of maritime companies.
Martin Johannsmann, CEO, SKF Marine

Cost-saving solutions are key

At the trade fair, it was clear to see how digitization is driving change and creating new business models in the maritime sector. Live demonstrations gave visitors the chance to experience how sensors and connectivity enable advanced capabilities such as condition and emissions monitoring and predictive maintenance. “Such solutions hold great potential,” says Johannsmann. “They not only help ship operators to understand their data, but also to act on it so they can maximize reliability and comply with strict environmental regulations.

A live demonstration of the SKF Dynamic Stabilizer Cover

A live demonstration of the SKF Dynamic Stabilizer Cover

Due to a decline in shipbuilding orders, the industry is under pressure to reduce expenditure as much as possible. Companies are looking to engineering innovations to achieve this. As Johannsmann explains, “Fuel-efficient solutions are the key to cutting costs. With large vessels such as cruise liners, just a one percent reduction in consumption will lead to colossal savings.”

A bright future on the horizon

Fortunately, there have been many recent technological advances to help the shipping industry weather these tough times. One example is the SKF Dynamic Stabilizer Cover, which was launched at SMM 2016. The solution comprises two inflatable cushions made of rubber-coated Kevlar mesh that are attached to the stabilizer fin box. These rapidly close the hull when the stabilizers are not in use, decreasing water resistance and fuel consumption.

So where is the shipping industry heading? Johannsmann believes in power of digitization: “In the future, more and more decisions will be made in onshore facilities rather than aboard ship. This means that digitization and connectivity will become essential to ship operators. They require the right software so they can pursue digitally driven business models.”

SMM 2016 offered a hands-on experience of the latest maritime innovations

SMM 2016 offered a hands-on experience of the latest maritime innovations

While the maritime industry may be enduring turbulent times right now, the outlook is positive on the whole. SMM 2016 was testament to this. Many contracts, including some worth billions of euros, were signed at the event. “There was an atmosphere of optimism in Hamburg,” says Johannsmann. “Our latest products were received very well, and we engaged in many interesting discussions with visitors. The general feeling is that while digitization disrupts the maritime industry, it also presents huge opportunities.”