posts posted under the Blue Innovation initiative

Commercial Container Ship

HydroPen: A solution to container fires?

Ever since man was able to transport goods by sea, hazards and dangers have existed to the cargo involved. Starting from the ancient Greeks, the design and size of ships continued to evolve to match the demand that was growing in an increasingly connected society. In the 20th century sea transport became more even extensive as our society became more globalised and technology more developed.

There is no doubt that cargo transport by sea has drastically evolved over the years. However, as with anything, with larger volumes and varieties of goods carried, more risk emerged. Container fires are unfortunately very common – today they happen on average every 66 days. It is up to industry experts to try to figure out a way to prevent or contain catastrophes – and it looks like the Danish company Viking has come up with a solution that will help shippers mitigate such risks with the HydroPen.

History of container fires

Whenever a large fire breaks out aboard a ship, the cargo on board is determined to be the cause. The contents of containers can shift around, burn, explode or even liquify if proper storage and handling is not carried out.

Following many disasters at sea that caused either massive losses in life or in cargo, the International Maritime Organization came up with regulations to try to prevent or minimise such disasters in 1958. Because of this, a lot of dangerous freight can be tracked. Freightwaves reports that today, 10% of 60 million of maritime containers moved globally are declared as dangerous goods under the IMO regulations. Unfortunately, 1/5th of those are either poorly packed or incorrectly identified – therewith increasing risk of container fires and potential maritime disasters.

Common causes of container fires

There have been quite a few large container fires in recent history. The first step to eliminating such disasters would be for the industry to identify the risks, follow the safety standards, and develop feasible fire prevention and containment technologies.

The most common cause of container fire continues to be misdeclaration of container cargo. This could be assigned to either clerical errors or to nefarious activities, but in both cases can lead to huge destructions of property and a loss of life. Another cause could be improper container storage. In the past, dangerous seas have caused shifts in improperly secured containers aboard ships, which then resulted in fires or explosions. Finally, the third most common cause is improper fire containment, control equipment and staff training. Better fire-fighting equipment on board the ships, with crew that is fully trained in its usage, could help offset the fire risks at sea.

Other common causes of ship fires can be assigned to:

  • Engine malfunction
  • Improper electrical wiring
  • Improper handling of kitchen equipment on board of vessels
  • Mislabelled combustible cargo

Industry solutions

After each catastrophe, industry partners and insurance companies have tried to carry out analyses to determine what the causes were, and thus help prevent similar fiascos in the future. Many insurance companies have already stressed the need to promote better ship designs and fire-fighting equipment to help the crew manage any potential misfortunes (Allianz Global).

New technologies seem to be the answer. Recently, the Nordic company Viking has come up with a new tool – the HydroPen – which has promising potential. This tool is an “innovative, water-based drilling machine that enables crew to effectively and efficiently fight container fires high up in the stack.” It consists of two components – a lift to raise a drill or spray unit to the location of a fire and the unit itself.

How does it work?

In the event of a fire inside a container on board of a ship, the HydroPen can drill through a standard container door or wall. It then can use a special hose, which is connected to the vessel’s fire main. Using pressurised water, it can spray the insides of the container and put out the fire before it can spread beyond the container (causing more damage to other cargo and potentially the vessel itself. With proper training, this tool could potentially prevent large maritime disasters.

For more videos on how the HydroPen works, you can also head to the Viking YouTube channel.
 

Final thoughts

There is no doubt that the shipping industry continues to evolve – with larger distances, larger shipments, and a larger variety of cargo. For the shipping industry to remain safe and efficient, it needs highly trained staff that know how to protect the cargo during the vessel trajectories, employees that know how to properly label cargo, and innovative technological solutions that can help mitigate any potential risks that may arise from circumstances out of our control.

Vessel operations are highly complex. At the Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport we offer an array of courses that can help you expand your knowledge of the industry from the perspective of the shipper, the freight forwarder, the port authority and the end client. If you are interested in knowing more, you can check out our available courses or contact us directly for more information.

Sources:

Green hydrogen ‘comes back to the future’

Green hydrogen as a source of fuel can be essential for decarbonizing the transport sector, especially for covering the limitations of electric solutions and other clean energies, since it is found easily and thanks to the increase of research projects worldwide, green H is getting cheaper.

Anthony-Rampersad_Unsplash_Green Hydrogen

What is ‘Green Hydrogen’?

Green Hydrogen is a source of energy that has no colour, no odour or taste, is abundant and it does not emit any carbon dioxide emissions when used to power fuel cells.

There are different types of hydrogen and every type has its characteristics; they’re essentially colour codes, used within the energy industry to mark each type of hydrogen.It can be grey, blue, green, brown and even yellow and pink, depending on the type of products used, different colours are assigned to the hydrogen.

As the iconic movie trilogy of the mid-’80s “Back to the future” predicted, we can say that hydrogen “comes back to the future”.

Many factors make this raw material so appealing as a great alternative in comparison to electric and carbon fuels. And especially, now is the time to incentivise green fuels as the need for decarbonising the planet is one of the goals that countries around the world have set for 2050, especially the European Union.

How does Green Hydrogen work?

As explained before, hydrogen has no colour, but the name of the colour is given by the type of waste in the production process. Grey and blue come from fossil fuels that generate CO2, and the resulting emissions are captured, stored and not released into the atmosphere. Pink hydrogen comes through electrolysis powered by nuclear energy, yellow is a relatively new phrase for hydrogen made through electrolysis using solar power. Brown hydrogen is made using black coal or lignite (brown coal), these black and brown hydrogen are the opposite of green hydrogen in the hydrogen spectrum and the most environmentally damaging – whereas green hydrogen does not generate any emission neither in the production process nor the combustion.

Green Hydrogen is produced with no harmful greenhouse gas emissions and is generated by using clean electricity from surplus renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to electrolyse water. Electrolysers use an electrochemical reaction to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, emitting zero-carbon dioxide in the process, according to National Grid information.

How can the transport sector make use of green hydrogen?

Since the transport sector represents the source of one-third of total CO2 emissions in Europe, it could benefit from the renewed attention on hydrogen to replace fossil fuels and meet the European Union decarbonisation goals. This way it could be a lead actor in the transport sector where batteries are an impracticable solution to substitute fossil fuels powering ferries, coasting trade or inland waterways and in rail applications.

Currently, the production of green hydrogen represents a small percentage of the overall, this is due to the elevated costs of production. Green hydrogen will come down in price as it becomes more common, providing an answer to one of the great challenges facing the energy sector. Developing systems to store surplus energy from renewables on a large scale, reduce Europe’s energy dependence, and cover gap areas since electric energy cannot be used in all transport systems as in maritime transport.

What are the obstacles to using green hydrogen?

So, can green hydrogen be implemented right away in the transportation sector? One of the biggest barriers to the adoption of this fuel for the transport sector comes from the low supply, since FC vehicles are expensive, although mass-production could reduce costs, as well as the difficulties of mass market diffusion in hydrogen storage. If applied in the current scenario of mass production vehicles for transport and fuels, hydrogen could reach areas where batteries and electric energy sources cannot cover.

Application in maritime transport

One of the major consumers of oil products and heavy fuels is the maritime sector, harming the quality of air, especially around ports. If applied to the engines of the maritime transport sector, green hydrogen could reduce not only emissions during sea navigation, but also those deriving from port operations.

In the last year, there have been some steps towards creating the world’s first hydrogen-powered cargo ship. Implementing this technology on ships, ferries and other coastal crafts could strongly reduce CO2 emissions.

Application in rail transport

Currently, it is difficult to electrify certain sections of railway lines on which fossil fuel-powered trains are used. Hydrogen trains are considered competitive for those railway sections that don’t depend on electric energy, with a low frequency of service and operate on long distances. These conditions are frequent in rail transport, making hydrogen rail mobility interesting from an economic point of view and an excellent opportunity to further decarbonise public transport, according to Enea, (Agenzia nazionale per le nuove tecnologie, l’energia e lo sviluppo economico sostenibile).

 

Certainly, we will see green hydrogen powering sectors that strongly depend on carbon fuels as companies and countries meet the goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, especially in the maritime and rail transport sectors. This is without a doubt a comeback to clean and essential sources of energy and as the famous DeLorean from the film, engines will be using clean hydrogen to keep up the pace.

 

Sources:

The hydrogen colour spectrum | National Grid Group

 Hydrogen and “green transport” – EAI (enea.it)

Green Hydrogen: an essential element for decarbonization (cepsa.com)

Alternative Fuels Data Center: Hydrogen Benefits and Considerations (energy.gov)

 

Eco-innovation at the heart of Europe

Written by: Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska – Digital Communications Manager Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport

There is little doubt that innovation is today’s “big thing”. The fast advancement of technologies, the increasing digitalisation taking place across all industries, and the ever-more encompassing dual lives that individuals lead in the physical and digital stratospheres have accelerated innovative progress. At the same time, the world has also began to recognise the importance of sustainability in the protection of our planet and began to plan for alternatives that would help us maintain our current global operations and life-styles whilst diminishing the pejorative impact that they have had on our earth since the Industrial era began.

These two concepts have recently given rise to a new idea – that of “eco-innovation”. In this Blue Innovation article we will look at how the European Union has embraced this concept in efforts to measure and map the progress of its member states in innovative methods to work to achieve the sustainability targets it has set itself for the coming decades.

What is “Eco-Innovation” exactly?

The term, which first appeared in 1996 in a book written by Claude Fussler and Peter James “Driving Eco-Innovation,” can be understood as a general approach to foster environmentally friendly progress in modern societies. At its core are specific efforts made by the parties that aim to reduce the environmental harm done in their societies – be it through ideas, products, societal behaviours, or industrial or operational processes. It is key to the European Union’s Green Deal and towards promoting and ensuring green growth in the 21st century.

The “Eco-Innovation Index”

The European Commission’s Eco-Innovation Plan was first adopted in 2011. In the plan, the Commission defined the term as “any innovation that makes progress towards the goal of sustainable development by reducing impacts on the environment, increasing resilience to environmental pressures or using natural resources more efficiently and responsibly” (Source: Decision N° 1639/2006/EC establishing a Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme – accessed online on 10th Dec 2021). Over the first decade of its existence the Commission created a system to measure the innovative progress of its partners through the Eco-Innovation Index. The subsequent system, which includes the Eco-Innovation Scoreboard alongside the Index, captures the varying aspects of the member states’ eco-innovations by measuring 16 different indicators that are grouped into 5 categories:

  • Eco-innovation inputs (this includes government environmental energy investments and outlays, total number of R&D personnel, etc.)
  • Eco-innovation activities (this includes number of ISO 14001 certificates, the implementation of sustainable products among small to medium-sized enterprises, etc.)
  • Eco-innovation outputs (this includes sustainability-related patents, academic publications and media coverage, etc.)
  • Resource efficiency (this includes material, water and energy productivity, the intensity of GHG emissions, etc.)
  • Socio-economic outcomes (this includes export of products from sustainable industries, % of employment in environmental protection, etc.)

By collating the results, the experts working on the Eco-Innovation Index can identify the successes and drawbacks that some member states have had on their journeys towards green growth.

The purpose of this tool is not to shame or identify what countries may be failing in their efforts, but rather to provide a neutral and analytical view on the overall environmental, societal and economic situation in the EU member states.

A decade of progress

Since record-keeping began under this programme, the overall performance of the EU member states in eco-innovation steadily improved. Looking at the summaries of the results reported on the EU’s Eco-Innovation website, it can be seen that most improvements were seen in:

  • Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially when looking at energy productivity and efficiency
  • An increase in public awareness brought by intensified media coverage of topics that focused on eco-innovative processes and developments
  • An increase in investments in R&D research, which in certain states came from both public and private sources.

From the data it is evident that not all countries have had similar successes in advancing their environmental achievements over the past decade. The EU’s tool allows us to take an analytical look across all countries to monitor their developments and perhaps identify the drawbacks and bottlenecks that may be hindering further progress. Every year the organisation issues a new report with a list of leaders, average performers and countries that are catching up – and this list has slightly fluctuated year by year depending on that countries’ policies and advances. In 2021 the “Eco-Innovation Leaders” – the top 5 highest scoring member states – were Luxembourg, Finland, Austria, Denmark and Sweden.

The Eco-Innovation Index is not a solution to Europe’s green growth agenda – rather it serves more as an diagnostic tool that allows both the EU and national governments to identify potential areas of growth in order to evolve and innovate further. If you are interested, head to the Eco-Innovation website and have a look at the evolution of the Index’s performance in the 27 member states for yourself: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecoap/indicators/index_en

Sources:

Container terminal at the Port of Long Beach

Zero Emissions future – the case of the Port of Long Beach

Written by Lidia Slawinska

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Digital Communications

A net-zero operating terminal is a milestone that most ports around the globe are working towards – as it would mark a significant step towards sustainability. This summer, one port has achieved this remarkable step and begun operating a container terminal that is equipped with nearly all electric and zero-emissions equipment. Already news sources are reporting it as one of the most technologically advanced cargo terminals globally. We are, of course, talking about the Port of Long Beach – and the Long Beach Container Terminal at Middle Harbor (in California, USA) – and we wanted to take a look at it in this #DidYouKnow article.

A decade in the making

The port begun work on the project in May 2011, with an initial estimated cost of $1.5bln. The project was divided in three distinct phases. The first phase was completed in 2016, after which 151 acres opened for business. The next year the terminal was expanded to reach 191 acres, and the final phase of the project ended in July 2021. The Container Terminal now boasts with 300 acres in size, has a completed container yard, a modern administration buiding and an on-dock rail yard to allow for intermodal traffic. The concrete wharf can also receive and process three massive ships at once, with fourteen gantry cranes able to service the shoreline.

The terminal is expected to expand through the North Gate Expansion by 2025, adding an additional 3 acres to the already impressive surface area of the facility.

Net zero emissions

It is doubtlessly difficult for ports to make sure that their operations are carbon neutral – and in line with the global environmental agencies recommendations for the protection of our climate. How did the Port of Long Beach achieve its net zero emissions?

First of all – it ensured sufficient on-shore power supply stations on the berths. All of the vessels are now able to shut down the diesel engines while stationed in port and can connect to the local electrical grid.

Secondly, during the construction it was ensured that all of the major structures were built with features that allow them to save both electricity and water, meeting the American Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

In-terminal operations are carried out by automated guided vehicles that rely on transponders in the asphalt to manoeuvre around the containers. These vehicles are battery-operated and are also capable of recharging themselves.

The final aspect of the Californian terminal is the emphasis that has been placed on faster truck turnaround times, which further reduced the port’s emissions.

Intermodality at the forefront

There is no doubt that one of the aspects that port terminals can focus on is to increase their intermodal capacities – as bringing trucks off the roads would significantly lower the GHG emissions produced by their diesel engines. The Port of Long Beach was not an exception, and in its construction has included a intermodal rail yard that includes 70,000ft of tracks. “There are 12 tracks, and each is almost a mile long,” says Thomas Baldwin, director of project management at the port. “There are four storage tracks, and eight working tracks. Five dual cantilevered gantry cranes with room for a sixth. It’s one of most modern railyards ever built, with 1.1 million-TEU capacity ” (August 20th, 2021: ENR). In the near future, the port is also planning to expand its on-dock rail capacity to 35%, acknowledging that one fully stacked train can replace up to seventy-five trucks on the road – further alleviating the pressure on our environment.

Innovating into a clean energy future

Becoming a green port is no small feat. There are many innovative ports in the world that have already incorporated significant changes to their operations to lower their emissions and thus conform with international standards. The Long Beach Container Terminal can certainly be used as an example for other ports to follow, as it shows the signs of being the world’s first “all-electric, zero-emission mega terminal” and “will [help the port] increase [its] throughput, improve air quality and maintain [its] status as a leading gateway for trans-Pacific trade” – as was highlighted by Maria Cordero, the executive director of the port (August 23rd, 2021: Splash 247).

Sources

Click&Cargo ERP

ClickandCargo Simulator for Training of Logistic Operations

Written by - Valentina Salinas, Product Manager clickandcargo.com

Written by – Valentina Salinas, Product Manager clickandcargo.com

ClickandCargo has been in the business less than other software companies in the Spanish market but has been able to develop an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform that is able to compete fairly with software of similar functionalities. This why it was chosen by the EU-funded YEP MED project to act as the platform to support digital training of new professionals in the logistic sector.

The importance of information flow

A freight forwarder’s core business basically consists of handling import and export operations for their clients. The most important asset they have is the control of the information flow, as they sit in the middle of the logistics chain as the architects of import-export operations.

With e-commerce flooding international trade in recent years, and the ever-increasing demand for faster and more efficient shipments, digital information systems are a must. And since they are so fundamental, it is critical that new professionals understand how to operate within them. It is under this line of thought that ClickandCargo came into play.

Click&Cargo ERP

The ERP explained

What is the simulated setup

In the YEP MED courses, students become employees of PlayForwarding, a freight forwarding company operating in YEP MED’s logistic virtual ecosystem. With branches across the Mediterranean, students from each country handle their local (virtual) client base, planning and managing door-to-door logistic operations.

Playforwarding’s ERP is ClickandCargo, from which students create commercial offers, handle the shipment records and execute the entire documental flow needed for import and export operations.

The ERP is configured just as if it were a real company. All third parties involved in the operations -including clients, agents, shipping, etc., are pre-registered in the system, alongside ports and other data to replicate real-life transport operations. Event though each branch operates separately, they have the ability to share basic information about clients. Default quality control rules apply just as in real life, so students cannot leave any required fields blank to move forward with an operation.

ClickandCargo simulates the integration of the ERP with YEP MED’s virtual Port Community System, that serves as the communication point with shipping companies and shipping agencies for the according documental needs. The environment of ClickandCargo also simulates e-mail communication of PlayForwarding with customs agencies and transport companies. This simulation allows students to receive customs clearances and container information from these companies – as they would be in real life.

Operations: From commercial to invoicing

Through the ClickandCargo platform, students can play different roles during the training. They are first asked to execute commercial tasks by creating a quotation directly in the ERP system. For this, the ERP has preloaded tariffs that allow the students to get familiarised with pricing and commercial tasks. How do you charge for sea freight? You are most likely to understand all the pricing concepts after quoting in the simulator.

After having an accepted quotation, students get their hands on handling all the documentation flows needed for a sea-freight operation. Using the different simulated communication channels (Port Community Systems (PCS), e-mail), students create and send the booking requests, transport orders, customs clearance requests, shipping instructions and House Bills of Lading (B/L). They get the chance to work both with import and export operations by sharing export shipment files with their branches at the destination ports.

YEP MED ERP Screenshot

YEP MED ERP Screenshot

In the near future we hope to be able to close the operations cycle by allowing the students to finally invoice the clients directly from ClickandCargo, make the final invoice reconciliations and close the records. This administrative work is an important step to understand all aspects of the freight forwarding business, and it will soon form part of the training.

Shortening the learning curve and setting precedents in good practices

The ERP simulator that ClickandCargo has put in place for this project gives an unprecedented value to the training of future professionals in the logistic business overall. It allows students to get their hands on a real software used for freight management and get the “learn-by-doing” experience. This experience serves as the initial training they would get in their first job, thus significantly shortening the learning curve.

Finally, what we as ClickandCargo find most exciting in this project is the great opportunity to create good practices in the execution of freight operations. The virtual logistic ecosystem created in under YEP MED is an important test for new functionalities, integrations and technologies before they go into real production. ClickandCargo sits in the middle of this virtual digital logistic chain, and we will work further to take this training to excellence.

Simulated Resource Enterprises help bring reality to students' laptops

Digital Training in the 21st century

Practice makes perfect

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Consultant

There is no doubt about it. Historically educational models that incorporated experiential and real-life experiences have proven to be more successful. Currently many professions already employ experiential training approaches – learning-on-the-job, internships, and fellowships are but some examples.

The Escola Europea Intermodal Transport has always believed in the experiential teaching model – explain the theory of the transport operations to the students whilst simultaneously taking them to the places where the operations themselves take place. This was made possible through the signature MOST and SURCO courses, which included on-board sections of the courses where students go to visit transport terminals and experience journeys in intermodal transport means (a Ro-Pax vessel or a train). 2020 has put a stop to this and forced us to think of new models that will help bring the operations closer to the students. Through the EU-financed project YEP MED (Youth Employment in the Ports of the MEDiterranean), which launched in September 2020, a new training methodology morphed into existence – one that incorporated cyberspace with our own reality: Simulated Practice Enterprises.

Simulated Practice Enterprises

Simulated Practice Enterprises are enterprises recreated in a digital environment that simulates real-time conditions to allow for nearly real-life situations without actually having to involve real companies (and therewith lowering the possibility of costly errors). Running simulations with such practice enterprises provides a unique interactive learning experience for participants – as it forces them to apply what they have learned in a robust and risk-free environment. The students can cement their conceptual knowledge, develop vital skills and try out a number of different business strategies and business management concepts to hone their skills – all through such experimentation.

Such synergy between the theory and practice leads to the “formation and development of entrepreneurial spirit and skills, making integration easier prerequisites of future graduates in the labour market.”

Teaching business operations in a classroom is challenging, as it is nearly impossible to teach it in a purely theoretical fashion. Unlike other subject matters (science, sports, etc. where in-class experimentation and training is possible), within the field of business and business management, experimentation is not a feasible option. Frequently theory is not enough to prepare the student for realistic scenarios. Since the early 2010s, many companies have already begun to integrate simulated scenarios to their learning methodologies to better prepare students for the employment world. For example, in the Western Michigan University, Dr. Bret Wagner has integrated a simulation system, called ScrimmageSIM, which “gives students real-world experience in a virtual business setting”. The programme itself is “an effective tool because it does not give students the impression that there is a “right answer” to a business problem, as textbooks do. Rather, the programme engages students in the simulated business problem and shows how business concepts and theory provide insight into these complex situations. It does so by different business scenarios tailored to the business concept being taught.”

It is with this thinking, that the concept for the simulated environment was born for the YEP MED project.

Learning by Doing

The next iteration of a training methodology is in the virtual sphere. The Simulated Practice Enterprise is a methodological didactic strategy of “Learning by Doing” – through a digital lens. With the ERP system provided by Click & Cargo, the Escola Europea and its partners have worked to develop a digital environment that will:

  • Promote simultaneous and integrated development of functional competencies of organisational management (social, human and business) based on a methodological-didactic simulation system that allows for contextualised and experiential knowledge.
  • Encourage the responsible and autonomous development of the student body from a problem solving and decision-making standpoint, when faced with unpredictable events, incidents and conflicts that can emerge from the dynamics of a company and its interactions with customers and suppliers.
  • Develop a permanent synergy of the contents from the continuous connections between teaching and learning activities within the local productive system.
  • Contribute to the vocational guidance of students and the employability of graduates through the creation of role-playing assessments and specific tasks representative of the world of work.

This innovative and new approach will allow for the Escola and its partners to maintain its experiential teaching method, whilst giving the students more opportunities to test out many of the business and supply chain management concepts. Keeping in line with the Escola’s ideological approach which is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the simulated environment will be open to 17 distinct groups – each corresponding to the thematic aspects of the SDGs themselves. The groups will be able to use the platform to prepare different commercial offers, learn about managing dangerous goods, discovering the machinations behind the cold chain, among other primary transport operations.

The Simulated Resource Enterprises will be put to test in the courses carried out under the YEP MED project – which themselves are divided into three parts. The ERPs will be used by students when they reach the 2nd and 3rd levels of the training. The simulated environment is designed to be as realistic as possible – and could replicate the conditions of a practical internship, giving the students the invaluable skills and experience before entering the workforce. Because the pandemic has made it difficult for companies to accept trainees to offer such opportunities, it is the goal of this part of the YEP MED project to have the simulated environment act as a near-identical virtual substitute. This way, before entering the workforce, the students will be able to learn by doing, and therewith enter the employment sphere fully prepared with virtual experience.

Digital practice will, in fact, make perfect.

Sources:

Infographic: Why Real-Time Data Matters to the Maritime Industry

Big Data is a field that extracts and analyses data from data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. But why does it matter to the maritime industry? For this month’s #DidYouKnow series we have prepared an infographic that details the main concepts that surround real-time data and maritime transport. 

Curious to know more? These and many other concepts are covered in our Motorways of the Sea course. Contact us to find out what are the upcoming courses this year.

Why real-time data matters to the maritime industry 1/2 Why real-time data matters to the maritime industry 2/2

Why Real-Time Data Matters to the Maritime Industry

In the face of the current 4th industrial revolution, it is interesting to take a look what changes are taking place in the virtual space of maritime transport. This month, we wanted to share with you an article, originally posted on the Sofar Ocean website, dealing with real-time data and why it matters to the maritime industry and its on-shore and off-shore actors. 

 

Logo-SofarOcean

This article originally appeared on the Sofar Ocean website

Over 90% of the world’s trade is in the hands of the international maritime shipping industry. Every year, it moves more than USD 4 trillion of goods. For shipping companies, there’s a lot of pressure to remain on schedule, protect the cargo ship and crew, and ensure profitability. It is not an easy task.
This interactive map of the world’s main shipping routes provides a glimpse of the industry’s complexity. 90,000 vessels cross paths as they transport goods from one continent to another on a daily basis.

 

The map was created by London-based data visualisation studio Kiln and the UCL Energy Institute

It’s clear from this map that the maritime industry involves an intricate system of transportation. To complicate things, ports and vessels are also subject to the forces of nature, which are becoming harder and harder to predict. With all of these obstacles in the way, shipping companies must be able to adapt to changing situations and act fast. This is where Sofar Ocean comes in. We believe that with real-time big data analytics, however, the maritime industry can better navigate these unexpected challenges.

What is Real-Time Big Data?

Big data is a field that extracts and analyses data from data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software. Real-time capabilities mean that those insights are delivered immediately after collection.

How does Real-Time Big Data Help the Maritime Industry?

Maritime companies generate data from different sources and in several formats. Traditionally, these insights are fixed, siloed, and inconsistent. Actioning this information is time-consuming and a major complication point for shipping companies.

With big data tools, this inflow of data is collated and organised in a cloud-based system. This system then analyses and extrapolates the relevant data in real-time, which promotes better decision making. Nothing is left to intuition or chance—therewith unlocking opportunities to drive greater efficiencies.

Efficient Maritime Operations and Logistics

Overall operations and logistics, for example, become much more efficient with real-time data. Companies can obtain information through GPS and RFID tags to help locate containers and ships immediately. Data technology also helps synchronise communication to manage ship arrivals, berthings, and departures safely and efficiently. And in case of an emergency, non-availability of the labour, or terminal allocations, real-time data helps ships plan their routes and speeds accordingly.

Due to climate change, this ability to pivot has never been so relevant. Although the interactive map above demonstrates that the global maritime industry is a well-oiled machine, the ocean’s climate—currents, waves, and wind—are more unpredictable than ever. Real-time data streamlines decision making and supports ad hoc navigation to ensure companies maximise returns.

Fuel-efficient routing

By having access to real-time sea state observations—currents, waves, and swell—vessel operators can re-route according to current ocean and weather conditions while optimising fuel efficiency. Inefficient weather routing oftentimes leads to the increased time spent at sea, which not only disrupts and delays the supply chain but can also increase fuel burn and CO2 emissions.

In addition to increasing voyage earnings, fuel-efficient routing also reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, supporting the latest GHG reduction strategy developed in 2018 by the International Maritime Organization. The initial strategy envisages that the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping should be reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. What does 50% look like? The IMO calculated that vessels released 1.12 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide the year before, in 2007. So we can guess that emissions need to be reduced by 560 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to emissions from 102 million cars!

So are we saying that real-time data helps reduce fuel costs and GHG emissions? Yes, yes we are. Not a bad day at the office.

Is Real-Time Big Data Safe From Cyber Threats?

We hear this question a lot, and rightly so. The convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) onboard ships—and their connection to the internet—creates an increased attack surface that requires greater cyber risk management.

On the IT side, the chances of cyberattacks can be mitigated through proper implementation of encryption techniques like blockchain technology. From an operational standpoint, IMO maintains that effective cyber risk management should start at the senior management level—embedding a culture of cyber risk awareness into all levels and departments of an organisation. You can read more about this in BIMCO’s Guidelines on Cybersecurity Onboard Ships.

Full Speed Ahead for the Maritime Industry

Is it possible that the maritime industry can become bigger and better? More lucrative, while emitting less GHG emissions? We believe so.

Knowledge is power. By implementing real-time insights in daily operations, shipping companies are well-positioned to navigate anything that comes their way. And how this year has gone, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an edge on the unexpected.

Curious what real-time data looks like? Take a peek at Sofar Ocean’s publicly available weather network dashboard, which offers real-time open-ocean marine weather observation data from over 500 weather sensors worldwide!

This article was originally posted on Sofar Ocean

Smart Cities

What does living in smart cities mean for privacy?

In the 2000s we are witnessing an exponential growth of the use of information technologies – smart cities or smart ports are becoming the norm. These are slowly pervading all aspects of modern life, including smart refrigerators, smart doorbells, smart plugs, smart bathrooms, etc. The revolution has also affected a larger societal section, with smart cities and smart ports also gaining traction in progress. We have already talked about certain smart technologies that affect port operations, such as Digital Twins, Drones and Smart Containers. Nevertheless, we haven’t yet asked the question: What does this spread of smart technologies mean for us as individuals?

This month, we have caught up with Brad Smith from Turn on VPN to talk about what these advancements mean for our privacy.

If you would like to know more about what VPNs are, check out the guide written by VPN Thrive.

Then, have a look at the article by Brad Smith, reproduced below: 

 

Written by: Brad Smith

Written by: Brad Smith

The idea behind a smart city is one where technology is extensively used to improve the quality of life of people living in an urban area and ease the provision of everyday services. This can mean sophisticated connectivity across the city, automated systems, highly available online resources and so much more.

However, this kind of setup also comes with a few challenges that aren’t normally so pronounced in a traditional city with privacy being the biggest one. How does living in a modern city affect people’s rights to privacy especially in places where privacy laws are not that strict?

Smart cities trends and their privacy implications

There are certainly many components that make a modern smart city in 2020, especially the ones that are built from the ground up. However, three of them do stand out in the way they affect your privacy as you go about your day to day life. Also, keep in mind that some of these technologies have been heavily deployed in traditional cities.

Increased citywide public surveillance and tracking

There is a lot of interest in using citywide public surveillance systems in smart cities across the world. These technologies have especially taken centerstage in the Middle East, China, and some European countries. Sophisticated public surveillance and tracking technologies are being deployed in smart cities to help the authorities in enforcement efforts and for other reasons.

However, such technologies, though useful in some places, do raise a lot of questions in the way they are deployed and how they are used especially with privacy and personal freedom in focus. Indeed, the debate around citywide surveillance has attracted some fair amount of controversy with some progressive governments even going as far as banning the use of these technologies in public.

Citywide connectivity and high-speed internet

The rolling out of 5G and other connectivity solutions in smart cities is integral to their development. A smart city without a stable, high-speed internet that is accessible to everyone is not a smart city. Today, even traditional cities that are trying to transition into modern cities have put a lot of resources into communication technologies such as 5G, public Wi-Fi, and other supporting infrastructure.

Government services moving to the cloud 

A smart city must have a big percentage of government services available via the internet. Indeed, most smart city projects today are geared towards moving entire government services to the cloud. This of course means an increase in data collection.

Increased popularity of smart ports

Another smart city trend is the invention of smart ports. A smart port is one that makes use of automation and innovative technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and Big Data to improve performance. The industry of container shipping and ports has been slow on the uptake in embracing change. Still, new systems, solutions, and technologies are emerging that will change the face of shipping in the future, ensuring the sector is more connected than ever before.

The smart port aims to generate transparent and efficient services that add value to the clients. An intelligent port features automated management of all entries and exits at the terminals, monitoring, and managing queues. The smart port removes the need for paperwork during container deliveries and collections, as well as automatic lighting.

In port cities like Montreal, emerging technologies provide useful real-time data for lorries to help them plan their trips and avoid traffic congestions, and lower carbon emissions.

This real-time data and smart sensors go a long way in monitoring crucial infrastructure, enabling the port operators to schedule predictive maintenance and reduce the need for yearly inspections. The data from the sensors, such as pile head sensors in the quays, allows the ports to track the eventual tear and tear and track the impact of cargo yet to be unloaded.

Privacy concerns over today’s smart cities

All of the technologies being deployed in smart cities today require the collection of data on a large scale. This, as expected, raises a lot of questions in terms of privacy going forward for people living in these so-called smart cities. How do you ensure that your right to privacy isn’t lost when everything’s made to collect your data?

Ways to protect your privacy

One way to stay private is to use tools like a VPN or encrypted messaging software. One of the major functions of VPNs is to encrypt your data and online traffic. This is especially important when you want to stay anonymous while connecting to public networks. With a messaging app that offers end-to-end encryption, you can also keep your conversations private.

There is no doubt that living in a smart city is more convenient and sustainable than in a traditional one. As you enjoy all the benefits that come with the advanced connectivity in these urban dwellings, don’t forget the importance of staying private.

Digital highway

Digitisation in logistics and e-documents… advantage or cost?

The current crisis is bringing with it a lot of changes to our industry. For this quarter’s Blue Innovation article, we have caught up with Xavier Lluch, an expert in cost analysis, a veteran of the logistics industry and a regular teacher in our courses, to share with us his thoughts on the emerging trend of e-documents and electronic transport processes. Check out the full article below: 

 

Xavier Lluch

Xavier Lluch i Oms
Professor of the Escola Europea – Intermodal transport
Consultant for Spain for Pionira BV, experts in generic solutions for digital document signing.

The digital revolution is here and was here long before the virus crisis. Perhaps the current crisis allows us to rethink the way we have approached logistics and transport activities so far. The opportunities offered by the new ITC technologies are already changing the way we do business. In the transportation and logistics industry, we now have powerful tools at our disposal to improve the competitiveness of our companies and the range of services offered.

Nevertheless, the implementation of these technologies could be faster than it is currently. For many reasons, but especially because it requires a different approach to the way we do business, a profound cultural change among managers and employees in this sector is necessary. Some business models may make way for new ones.

Are we – are you – ready to take on this challenge? The answer to the question can affect the design of the businesses on offer.

The use of e-documents requires the use of a third party – service providers who are replacing paper in the retention of information and signatures in transport documents with electronic counterparts and with great benefits. You can enjoy other benefits such as attaching images, videos, or other documents with a simple click, avoiding physical contact at the time of signatures, geolocating events… among others. This will save some money, especially from the administration side of any business dealings!

In intermodal transport, it will be possible to use a single document between the first shipper and his consignee, avoiding the traditional ways of having documents physically transferred between different carriers.

But this is only the beginning because when you start using e-documents, you will quickly stop talking about “documents” and instead use the expression “datasets” or “transport datasets”. When you have this information structured in a database that is accessible online and in real-time, there will be a full portfolio of new applications and benefits available, and from this point on you will start not only to save money but to design a new approach to your service concept.

Over the past three years, I have helped a Belgian company, PIONIRA BV, to introduce their solution for digitally signing transport documents in the Spanish market. On their web page (www.pionira.be), you will not find the usual software solutions for printing transport documents, but information about a company that can “offer a generic solution for digitally signing documents”.

It is important to realise the change in the way the company presents their offer because this is much more than a simple reformulation. Pionira offers a new service to connect with existing ERP solutions, linked to the many improvements that digitisation should bring to the logistics and transportation activity.

The solutions exist, they are tested, they do not require any investment and they can easily be connected to other existing apps.

The legal framework is clear for the use of electronic documents in transport. International treaties and national legislation have adapted their processes with a goal to facilitate and promote the use of electronic documents. This past August, the European Parliament approved a new rule that legalised them for all EU countries.

The approval of this European regulation sets the basis for the wide implementation of digital documents across both private and public sectors, by establishing the data and messaging standards as well as the conditions for the interoperability among the different players. In the short term it becomes mandatory for the public sector and voluntary for the private operators, and in a few years it might become mandatory for all. For more information you can check out the Regulation EU 2020/1056 of the European Parliament and of the Council on electronic freight transport information.

Significant companies (shippers, transporters) in Europe are already implementing e-transport documents. Some of the public administrations, mainly in the Benelux countries, have already been active in promoting the benefits of such technologies.

More recently, the main stakeholder’s associations in Spain have reached a compromise, with the acknowledgement of the Ministry of Transport, to promote the use of e-documents. The promotional campaign is expected to continue through September.

Digitisation is in the forefront of the intentions of many private and public policies, especially in the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, as e-signing transport documents foregoes any physical contact and therefore minimises the risk of virus transmission. A few days ago “The Economist” published an article titled “Covid-19 stimulates the digitisation of the government” – further highlighting the impact of the changes kickstarted by the pandemic.

We must recognise that one of the obstacles is the lack of a “digital culture” among many of us. The earlier we shorten that gap, the better it will be for the efficiency of our companies and the possibility for all to catch up with the coming changes in the transportation industry across the globe.