The shipping industry faces a fundamental question: how does it make the necessary changes to be sustainable and profitable in a fundamentally changed world?
New ships will be able to progressively adopt efficiency focussed technologies and new fuels, while the existing fleet has a far greater challenge.
In particular, the EEXI concept submitted to IMO and already gaining support, could create a significant gap between those existing vessels which are able to comply and be competitive and those which are forced out of the market.
Most obviously, the concept of just in time (JIT) shipping is one of the most promising solutions to emissions reductions and greater efficiency. Advocates contend that it would lessen impact on the environment and reduce costs. The multiple operational and contractual barriers to overcome mean it has yet to be widely adopted by shipping or port sectors.
Achieving JIT also requires the vessel to adopt optimised ship routing to reduce time spent waiting for berths or cargo and maximize utilization of ports while reducing costs. This requires adapting the freight contract to allow the ship to reduce its speed on passage to meet the scheduled arrival time.
A full implementation of JIT sailing implies a commitment between ships and ports, and the related actors (shipping companies, cargo owners, port authorities, terminal operators and nautical service providers). The ship must adhere to estimated times of arrival and the port must ensure that the resources for the ship berth are available at that time.
Ship operators face problems such as the nondisclosure of information related to the vessel’s construction or its engine performance that would improve the accuracy of estimations and any efforts to calculate and optimize the associated fuel consumption or GHG emissions.
For some types of vessels such as tankers and bulk carriers, contracts may be breached by reducing speed, which renders JIT arrivals impossible. Co-operation with charterers and a joint commitment to reducing GHG emissions is a prerequisite to this process.
The barriers to JIT at ports are equally numerous. Few ports have adequate management systems to estimate the resources (e.g.: pilots, tugs or mooring) that will be available beyond a 24-48-hour horizon.
In this new environment, shipping companies that are able to make the required technology investment are likely to reap significant competitive advantage as well as improved customer relationships.
More powerful processing, machine learning algorithms and analytics have the potential to create huge leaps forward in safety, efficiency and environmental performance.
Onshore teams could make use of increasing visibility to monitor situations in real-time and improve the day to day management of their vessels, from decision-support and compliance management to incident management.
The same data and analytics can be used to make increasingly accurate predictions. Voyager Worldwide can already apply historical trading data to predict future navigation requirements with impressive levels of accuracy.