Mr Simha pointed to initiatives like TradeLens and the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) as interesting developments on the industry side that could potentially integrate a wide variety of information from across the supply chain and drive real progress.
“We completed our integration onto TradeLens just a while ago. At MSC, we see Tradelens as an important initiative in the digitalisation of global shipping and logistics, with the potential to help carriers and their customers to increase transparency and reduce errors and delays, all at a crucial time when the industry is re-thinking and improving the resiliency of supply chains,” he said.
“To make it possible, there have been considerable investments in new API capabilities. That means ports can just have an API to pull whatever they need, same for other stakeholders like the Customs, for whatever they’re entitled to do.”
“These types of platforms (TradeLens and GSBN) are designed to benefit all network participants by making it easier to quickly share verified logistics and cargo documents and data, and digitally collaborate within the entire ecosystem. Hopefully, by collaborating we can make the whole shipping and logistics sector work better for everyone.”
Another of the obvious barriers to data sharing is fear of loss – for some in the transport chain, asymmetry of information is at the core of their business, and a request to share their data with others would be seen as potentially putting their livelihood at risk.
Dr Zuesongdham accepts that this is a very real concern for some logistics providers, such as freight forwarding companies that may not want to share data because they believe that their data is the source of their competitive advantage.
“If they share data, what else can they get back in return that they can then offer back to their customers to create value? They have to rethink their business model, and many companies are not ready to do that, to face up to that level of disruption,” she said.
“However, I think that the need for the kinds of data sharing that we have been discussing is growing constantly, and they won’t be able to avoid those needs forever. They have to start thinking how they’re going to evolve their business model in the future, and not stay stuck to the existing business model they have been running for 40 or 50 years.”
“If we had more information, that would provide support for the creation of more services and help us find alternatives to the existing set-up, help us change how we do business in a way that is different to today. Right now, we are mostly reactive to information when we get it, and we would like to be more proactive so that we can plan for future demands coming from shipping lines or from logistics companies like Amazon, Shell, or whoever will need capacity in the port.”
Mr Simha believes that all of the stakeholders within the supply chain have a role to play in supporting this change in different actors’ business models, to move the industry in a direction where the chorus of voices in favour of collaboration is too loud to ignore.
“As I know from my long experience, managing change can only fail without a clear vision, and the digital transformation is no exception. Instead of focusing on the data, I advise people to challenge the rules and barriers they have created for themselves and to find new ways for their business models to work in the future. If they don’t do this, somebody else will,” he said.
“People are naturally resistant to change, a clear purpose reduces that resistance. Indeed, if they do understand the ‘why’, they’ll be more likely to support the ‘how’.”
The Next Generation
Looking ahead to the future of a digitalised maritime industry, Dr Lind notes that he would like to see technology training and education recognised as a fundamental part of the Maritime Informatics movement, to make sure that the skills that are required to take advantage of new technologies are present in shipping companies and across supply chain organisations.
“I think it’s important to stress that digitalisation is coming like a storm into the maritime sector, and that will require new competence to handle. We need to raise that competence level,” he said.
“In my understanding there are about four hundred maritime academies out there in the world, and institutions like the IALA academy and The Nautical Institute and a number of these professional bodies that are issuing different kinds of diplomas on maritime topics. They need to be involved.”
“My feeling is that if we do this right, introducing this concept of Maritime Informatics, then we have a chance to raise the competence level in the whole industry.” >>>continued on page 5