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Post Info TOPIC: The business case for building a smart marine ecosystem


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The business case for building a smart marine ecosystem

In recent times, the maritime sector has been investing heavily in advanced technologies, hoping to keep pace with the rapid advance of digitalisation. However, are these technologies actually delivering optimal efficiency and is there a way to go about it in a more effective manner? We take stock with the help of Wärtsilä’s Mauro Sacchi.

From artificial intelligence to autonomous ships, to blockchain and connected systems, the marine industry has been flirting with a host of exotic technologies. Their hope is that they will, through this process, stumble upon the next big disruptive solution in the industry. However, in spite of their efforts, experts claim they have not begun to harness the full benefits of these technologies.

Mauro Sacchi, Director Strategy and Business Development at Wärtsilä Marine Business, believes that to overcome the resulting inefficiencies in the system, creating a ‘smart’ maritime ecosystem that ‘connects the dots’ and introduces new commercial and operational practices, is not only necessary, but inevitable.

In order to do this, Sacchi says the sector must first “crack the rules of the game and come up with something new” to take themselves to the next level.

The problem of fragmentation

While that is a bold goal, Sacchi is the first to admit that it is easier said than done. The marine industry has traditionally been a conservative industry, and it takes a lot to convince them to adopt new ways and methods of working. As a result, while other sectors such as the automotive and airline industry have boldly grasped the controls of the digital lane, the maritime sector is playing catch up.

This problem is compounded by the fragmentation present in the sector, with different stakeholders pursuing their own interests instead of coming together and collaborating with one another. This fragmentation is also visible in the technological solutions that the industry is pursuing, with the latest technologies that exist in ports, ships and other marine infrastructure, unable to integrate and work effectively together.

“That’s the challenge we currently face,” emphasises Sacchi, as he highlights the risk this poses to the marine industry’s business model. “If these practices that have been around for centuries aren’t changed, if outmoded thinking is not reversed, if there continues to be fragmentation, then you can have the best technology that money can buy, but you cannot have a greater level of efficiency than what we currently possess.”

Learnings from real-life examples

One example of the inefficiencies arising from fragmentation relates to the behavior of container ships when entering ports and high-traffic areas.

“You can optimise the fuel efficiency of a vessel to the maximum. But then what if that vessel that’s perfectly optimised actually behaved on its voyage in an inefficient way because it did not get the relevant information from the ecosystem where it operates?” asks Sacchi.

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