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The SMART4SEA event: digital transformation in shipping at its best

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From the Conference opening – Session one

In today’s world, digitalization is not only a source of creating competitive advantage but more or less a necessity for business survival. We definitely need innovation to create the path for our company’s evolution, but most importantly the evolution of our industry, as the whole affects the elements it is comprised of and vice versa. But we need innovation as this word means solution; the solution to the problems that the industry faces more and more due to the new digital weapons that via the digital world, threaten the physical one in many ways, thus question the effectiveness of vessels’ performance. Iris Liaskonis was there with her camera and following our yesterday’s mentioning on the event and the awards, she reports:

Iris Liaskonis

Smart4Sea offered us an excellent conference in the heart of the new Athenian cultural fountain, Stavros Niarchos cultural center. The upcoming mekka of the arts and creation, in the stunning Bookcastle area, where the National Library has already started to be hosted. The conference focused on the way new technologies affect the shipping industry, something that years ago used to be considered as a Sci-Fi scenario. Big Data has made the world smaller, and vessels management has been subjected to structural changes that sooner or later will have become an established practice. ‘Smart’ means interconnected – a unique bridge between the physical and the digital world by devices and sensors that transmit real-time data, which aim at making more precise analysis, understanding results, taking better decisions based on meaningful data and predicting future behaviors. Data on vessels are based on actual performance, which if we analyze efficiently, we can reduce costs and achieve better results from vessel’s machinery to human factor’s performance and needs.

Given that  awareness means understanding  – which is the first step towards acting, we are proud of initiatives like that one by Smart4Sea and Mr. Belokas; the leading position of Greece in global shipping bears the responsibility of being in the forefront of evolution and strikes a glimpse of hope that Athens could sometime become a tech shipping hub.

The conference was introduced by Apostolos Belokas, Managing Editor of SAFETY4SEA with a presentation video and followed a series of presentations by Frank Coles, CEO of Transas,  Giampiero Soncini, Senior Advisor of Marine Innovation at RINA and 20 min Panel Discussion, plus an interesting Q+A session.

The second panel –  after the very triggering presentations of  Frank Coles and Giampiero Soncini, examined particular perspectives of Smart Shipping and Cyberships, respectively. By saying Smart, we refer to algorithms that translate actions and real-life situation and performances into numbers that mean something valuable to the humans that manage them. These numbers are a quantification of the qualitative elements and vice versa. The panel referred to autonomous ships, ships with ‘virtual captains,’ that because of their lighter weight permit better hydrodynamics, more cargo capacity, more modern designs, fewer construction costs and less operating costs. However, the risk remains at a significant level, as it is something with a low rate of diffusion in the market at the moment. As Mr. Coles supports it is more important to try to educate clients and listen to their problems rather than focusing their efforts on sales volume; and Transas works towards that aim.

In the third panel, Jason Stefanatos, Senior Research Engineer of DNV GL talked about digitalization in maritime, focusing on autonomous and smart operations from the regulator’s perspective. Those technologies, as he stated, have six main significant results: Advanced vessel’s design, advanced production, better vessel’s utilization, better vessel’s performance, more efficient compliance procedures, and vessel’s integrity. In DNV GL, the distinguish three main categories toward a class notation. These have as a criterion whether the rules are the existing ones or new ones – for remote controlled operations or autonomous operations. The existing ones need to be subjected to adaptions and the new ones to iterative development; all together will form the set of rules for remote controlled and autonomous ships.

Marcus Ejdersten, Director of Strategic Marketing at MacGregor gave us his insights on smarter cargo handling related to waste. According to his presentation, maritime transport, the backbone of global trade transporting 90% of world cargo, is suffering from low to zero profitability for a significant number of the last years, an unsustainable fact. Also, maritime transport emits 1000 million tons of CO2 annually (3% of global) and is foreseen to grow. That makes its improvement a matter of urgency. The third problem is the waste element in the value chain by unbundling of vessels core systems, insufficient information sharing and general processes and partly outdated way of working, with no permission are asked before the disruption. Also, the maritime safety of the crew, cargo and assets are jeopardized by weak safety culture, compliance and short-terminism. That drags down the attractiveness of the industry.

Just before the coffee break, the topic of Big Data was brought on the floor, with Mr. Daniel Shirley, Product Marketing Manager of MarineTraffic examining ‘how location intelligence is redefining the way we see global shipping operations’, and explaining how we are defined by the data we transmit. The availability of alternative data and the new quantitative techniques for analyzing these data – machine learning, are becoming a new source of competitive advantage. Machine learning is the ‘magic’ way we give computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed, as bibliography suggests. Beginning with Arthur Samuel in 1959 at IBM’s labs but having its routes more years back with the famous Alan Turing and Tom Mitchell, machine learning has taken over many industries and tasks – from simple ones to those of more complexity, all based on building algorithms on data been recorded to make decisions and predictions. However, the practical question may be not if machines can learn, but at a step back: whether the information gathered is useful or not. For our industry according to Mr Shirley, essential evolutions are the increased granularity which is continuing to filter out the noise, the interaction between the manned and the autonomous ships, the analytics benefits for the environment and the CSR strategy of each company, and the action bartering which may set the path for a progression in virtual booking.

Mikael Lind – Associate professor and research manager of RISE Viktoria – talked about business opportunities in the maritime sector enabled by digitalization.

We also had the pleasure to hear more about ILJIN and Co by their Sales Manager, Ji Hun Seo. Mr. Seo talked about the ways to make an efficient and a cost-effective maritime communication with big data, providing us with information on his company last innovations, one of which is the SHIP ROUTER, for seamless communication support, electronic switching communication and data compression & buffering.

The next panel on Energy Efficiency gave us sharp insights on the Shipowner’s Perspective, a presentation by Nikolaos Kakaklis, Technology & Projects Manager, at Consolidated Marine Management as well as on Effective Data Handling for practical performance analysis, presented by Anthony Vourdachas, Engineer OEP at ABS, and on the buzz topic, Machine Learning, used for lifting performance monitoring to the next level by Panos Theodossopoulos, CEO at Propulsion Analytics.

Mr. Kakalis presented interesting results showing that ships based on innovative smart technologies have achieved 6-9% overall efficiency improvement, they use LPG as fuel, which is technically feasible and SOx CAP compliant. Also, they have reduced by 30% their fuel expenses plus the loading time by the same percentage. Machinery that is manufactured according to those evolutions is compliant with IMO Tier III, the tank design is better and enables more modern and innovative designs and, the hull and the propeller design and the cargo handling are much optimized. All those benefits, at the end of the day, favor the reduction in energy demand. We had the chance to see how advanced computer-based methods play a role as important decision support tools; in particular, he explained the way computational fluid dynamics and machinery simulation & optimization systems work.

Anthony Vourdachas, presented ABS’s Vessels Performance Management System, a system that should leverage operational data to provide analysis and insight to vessel owners to improve performance and environmental efficiency. It’s a system that integrates information on operations, consumption, emissions, machinery, voyage, KPIs, and compliance to drive meaningful conclusions. He also explained the difference between Auto logged vs. Noon data and the translation of results into a useful model. He also presented the benefits Electronic Main Engine, which through analytics allow auto logging of data, make them instantly available and pro-actively handles M/E; versus the standard analysis form M/E performance done by the crew, which is every 30 days, being slow to pick up issues, mostly reactive rather than proactive and transfers a small amount of data, not work intensive for the crew.

From the last session’s panel – picture credits Iris Liaskonis

Last for the panel, Dr. Panos Theodossopoulos talked about Machine Learning, which takes energy efficiency to the next level, by tools such as online monitoring, fuel management, energy monitoring & fault diagnosis, CBM and predictive maintenance. Propulsion Analytics positions itself at the point where the areas of Engineering, Machine Learning, and Human Expertise intersect and has achieved to be selected by WinGD for the development of the Engine Diagnostic System (EDS) that is standard in all their engines ordered after 1/1/2018. We heard about the fault diagnosis and the predictive maintenance they follow consisting of two steps: using historical data to train the Machine Learning algorithm and then applying the trained algorithm to predict future events.

The valuable insights that the last panel gave us where those on the big challenge of our times, cybersecurity. Cynthia Hudson, CEO at Hudson Analytix talked about Cybersecurity Risks for the Ship Operators, Christian Vakarelis, VP Media Communications at Navarino focused on Protecting vessels from the internal and external cyber threat and Howard Hughes, CTO, Tototheo showed us how Organic Cyber Security is growing with the human element.

Mrs. Hudson made a brief on her company’s tailor-made end-to-end services for the global market, indicating the model they follow: a blended, standard-based maturity-model assessment approach and methodology. She then defined the notion of cybersecurity, distinguished what it is and what it is not: the correct description is that of a sustainable risk management activity, about cultural change and business transformation, with a mission of protecting the entire business (the balance sheet) and a responsibility that starts at the top, or in other words, the company itself. Valuable was her reference to what exactly is at risk: personal information, confidential information, operational information, political, business and of course financial information about payment terms and processes, invoicing mechanisms a and approval procedures.

Lastly, Christian Vakarelis’s speech focused on protecting vessels from internal and external cyber threat, consisted of an S-Step Approach; the stages of identifying and protecting their assets, detecting the incidents, responding with a specific plan, and recovering normal operations. Their solution on the market is the Angel system, an integrated innovative software product that detects cybersecurity, and through an operation, center connects with the office. At a first stage, they use an enhanced web filtering, antivirus and instruction detection protection, application control and anti-hacking detection methods; then cybersecurity assessment, deception technologies, secure architecture design, vulnerability research, ICS / SCADA Protection, security awareness and training and ReadyOPS system.

A more than a successful event, which must be repeated as it attracted nearly 500 delegates from nearly 20 countries and over 200 organisations. We look forward to your comments.


N.B. We will revert by adding pictures which have been stuck in our system as soon as possible.-

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