Pandemic a catalyst for shipping digitalisation – report

Inmarsat has published a new report on the impact of COVID-19 in accelerating digitalisation in global shipping, characterising the pandemic as a “universal disruptor and catalyst for digital transformation.”

Written by maritime consultancy Thetius and sponsored by the Inmarsat Research Programme, ‘A Changed World: The state of digital transformation in a post-COVID-19 maritime industry’ notes that a fast-tracking of IoT-based systems has taken place since the virus was identified in late 2019.

The report finds that, as COVID-19 emerged and global travel restrictions took hold, increased demand for crew connectivity saw a parallel increase in other digital services to keep ships running.

“The impact of COVID-19 on ship operations is evidenced by a massive increase in the use of remote services such as pilotage and surveying,” the report says.

“Similarly, crew training and officer examinations went fully online for the first time ever in some jurisdictions. More broadly, global trade facilitation saw an explosion in the use of digital tools, including massive growth in consumer demand for e-commerce and the use of online booking platforms for shipping freight.”

Inmarsat’s own data covering commercial shipping during the pandemic period showed that the average daily data consumption per vessel nearly tripled, from 3.4 to 9.8 gigabytes between January 2020 and March 2021.

The authors estimate that the global maritime digital products and services market will be worth $159 billion in 2021, 18% higher than pre-pandemic forecasts, with market turnover set to be three years ahead of previous estimates by 2022.

“Digital solutions are now pervasive in maritime, and one consequence of COVID-19 has been that our customers – and their customers – increasingly think digital first,” said Stefano Poli, VP Business Development, Inmarsat Maritime.

“The last 18 months have been challenging, but they have also brought a seismic shift in attitudes in favour of IoT-based solutions for crew connectivity, safety, sustainability and ship efficiency. New acceptance of remote ship surveys, for example, led Inmarsat and Lloyd’s Register to collaborate on the first dedicated connectivity agreement to livestream surveys while vessels are at sea.”

“This is just one example of the vast scope of previously promising digital opportunities whose maritime moment has come.”

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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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