One-third of maritime professionals ‘actively resistant’ to digitalisation changes – report

Almost half of maritime industry professionals admit to having a ‘volatile’ attitude towards technology, with more than one-third saying they are ‘actively resistant to change’, according to a new report published by Wärtsilä.

The company’s ‘Debunking the Mythical Beasts of Maritime Digital Transformation’ report explores attitudes to digital transformation among maritime professionals across Europe, the Middle East, the US, and the Asia-Pacific region to examine how organisations are positioned to tackle the key challenges in the ongoing digitalisation of the industry.

Despite 78% of industry professionals agreeing that change and technological innovation is a positive thing for the maritime industry, 45% reported having a ‘volatile attitude’ towards technology and 36% were ‘actively resistant to change’.

Over two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed believe that digitalising existing infrastructure and retrofit vessels is challenging, with more than half (56%) noting that the time and cost implications of digital transformation projects are too high. In addition, 63% believe that seafarers currently lack the skills and knowledge required to deal with some new technologies.

69% of contributors believe collaboration between industry players could be improved to support digitalisation, with 88% agreeing that this kind of cooperation will be key to making digital transformation a reality.

On the positive side, 70% of respondents claimed to have a clear understanding of why digitalisation is needed and its potential benefits, while 64% saw people as being more crucial to digital transformation than technology.

“This report makes clear that the industry agrees that digitalisation is essential to the future of shipping. But little tangible progress has been made to date because of wildly different and vague interpretations of what digitisation actually means,” said Michael Christiansen, Vice President, Smart Vessel, Wärtsilä.

“What’s interesting is that our report draws striking parallels between the fears and misunderstandings that gave rise to vivid stories of famous mythological sea monsters that live on in folklore today and highlights the apprehension that many modern-day maritime professionals feel towards the largely unchartered ocean of digital transformation.”

“Like the sea, digital transformation is a great unifier. We are all in the same boat. Real progress will only happen when we collectively abandon the idea of digital transformation as all or nothing. As each organisation within the maritime industry will be at a different stage of its own journey, we must appreciate it as an iterative and stepwise process. There is still much work to be done to bridge the gaps – break the silos – between digital systems. To do this, we can and must share and learn from each other’s experiences because digitisation won’t be achieved by any one player alone. We need to work together to build an ecosystem where digital technologies on board a ship talk to those in offices on shore. This is how, as an industry, we can reframe the route to digitalisation and turn threats into opportunities.”

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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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