The SMN Interview: Andre Simha, MSC; Dr Phanthian Zuesongdham, HPA; & Dr Mikael Lind, RISE

(l-r) Andre Simha, MSC; Dr Phanthian Zuesongdham, HPA; and Dr Mikael Lind, RISE

“It is imperative for us to do more data sharing amongst each other and find ways to share data in a trusted manner that works for everyone. This is actually one of the most challenging tasks, we have been talking about data sharing for decades, but it’s never reached the level we need it to,” said Dr Zuesongdham.

“In reality, only small fragments of the industry are going to join this kind of data sharing community, and we are still working towards fully integrating these groups to the extent that the effect of data sharing will be visible to the end customers.”

“That demand is growing on the consumer side. Before, logistics was really a B2B business, visibility to the end consumer was not really a concern. But now we are seeing a shift in demand from consumers who would like to know exactly how their package is shipped. Are they using CO2 neutral options? Can I choose environmentally friendly options to make my package more ‘green’? These are the new trends, people’s mindsets and how they consume things are changing.”

As one example, from the perspective of the Port of Hamburg specifically, Dr Zuesongdham would like to see more granular data made available about container contents, to be able to drill down into specifics that would make forward planning more accurate, rather than having to rely on the aggregate data available from the manifest.

“The barriers between the different actors in the logistics chain have to be broken down, because at the end of the day, the end customer doesn’t care if their shipment is in a container, they would like to know exactly when it will arrive at their door. Not between 12:00 and 17:00 in the afternoon, but with a smaller and smaller window so that they don’t need to wait,” she said.

“We have to narrow down our planning process and our data sharing so that at any point of the process we can predict what is going to happen next, so the other actors in the supply chain can plan their portion of the process.”

“That is actually the most challenging part, because even if a company is maintaining operational excellence, once we bring in this kind of inter-company or inter-organisational process optimisation, then we tend to become quite lost, I would say.”

Dr Lind uses IATA (International Air Transport Association) as an example of how this kind of data sharing works well in other industries. While there are significant differences between the aviation and maritime transport sectors, there are still lessons that can be learned and applied.

“Aviation is a relatively young industry and it has introduced specific requirements to maintain the safety of planes, so you cannot take off from one airport without having a slot time at the other end, and so on. That has required data sharing, to a very large extent,” he said.

“But there you also have EUROCONTROL (European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation), and EUROCONTROL is operationally responsible for the overall process. That is not something that will ever happen in the maritime sector, I don’t think, because there are too many stakeholders involved who wouldn’t join in.”

“A lot of the lack of predictability comes out of sea transport and port operations, which has meant that the hinterland operators have needed to establish different kinds of ‘buffers’, for example keeping certain amounts of stock just to ensure that the end consumer will get things in time. It costs extra money to do that. If we were better at ‘just in time’ operations and much more aligned throughout the whole process, then we would be in a very different situation. I think that is where Maritime Informatics comes into play.”

Maritime can learn data sharing lessons from the aviation industry

Following on with the aviation example, Mr Simha notes that the progress that IATA has made in encouraging collaboration among airlines following its inception in 1945 was not immediate, it took time before standards were established and all of the major players reached agreement. Shipping is at a similar stage in the process right now.

“As an industry we have two options: each of us can go about it on our own or we do it together. If we do it on our own, we will all invest substantial amounts of money and people and in the end our customers will not reap the benefits from interoperability. Instead of providing customers with different bits and pieces of technology, I strongly believe that liners should join in developing a single, holistic system,” he added.

“If we want to make things work, we need to have standards. That’s why we pushed to create DCSA (Digital Container Shipping Association, of which Mr Simha is Chairman). We fundamentally believe that a collaborative effort towards establishing new standards has to become the norm. This is what we see as a game changer, to lead to a more digitally advanced industry as a whole, to challenge traditional business models and drive the entire supply chain towards a new era of connectivity, transparency, and efficiency.”

“At MSC, we believe that adding tracking and monitoring devices to containers, and connecting them to the internet, is the future of the shipping industry. We’re certainly not the only one. Several other carriers have started implementing smart containers across their fleets. But we think that the evolution towards smart container shipping can only be truly useful for our customers if we all move in the right direction, using the same technology standards that underpin these devices. It’s essential to collaborate so the containers we carry can be switched between the services of different shipping lines and across multiple geographies. Ports and port terminal operators stand to benefit as well.” >>>continued on page 3

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About the Author

Rob O'Dwyer
Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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