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Smart Shipping Has Arrived

One thing is certain within the maritime industry, smart shipping has arrived. However, what most people will think is “What is Smart Shipping?”

After speaking to range of different players in the ecosystem; I will endeavor to try and provide some understanding of this.
Smart shipping, ship digitalisation, maritime IoT, maritime digital applications; all these terms essentially refer advancements in ship operations, maintenance, performance optimisation via the use of technology and broadband communications.

Over the course of developing our latest report on smart shipping – The Future of Smart Shipping and Maritime Digital Applications, we discovered a plethora of opinions and interpretations about the aforementioned terms from a variety of players in the ecosystem.

Valour Consultancy defines a smart vessel as any vessel with applications to cover remote machinery diagnostics, CCTV/video connection services, predictive maintenance and cloud-based storage. To achieve this, the vessel must have broadband connectivity capabilities such as VSAT or cellular, and a vessel management system.

However, proclaiming how many smart ships are operating around the world is challenging as this category is catered for by a multitude of players for each of the above components.

Furthermore, for example, Samsung Heavy Industries (a ship builder) constructs a merchant vessel and deploys its SSI solution, sells the vessel to CMA CMG, who purchase several pieces of equipment from ABB and Wartsila, then also add some additional IoT services from Marlink, its connectivity service provider, and also subscribing to a data analytics company, such as NAPA.

Each of the parties will claim a sale, or subscription service for this one smart vessel. As such, calculating the total number of smart ships is rather challenging because if we were to sum each smart ship subscription or service, it would amount to a very high number indeed misrepresenting magnitude of the market.

Key Suspects

Presently, the maritime equipment manufacturers hold the majority of smart shipping services, with companies such as Kongsberg, Wärtsilä, and ABB being quick to extend their digital offerings to existing business operations. For example, as widely publicised, Kongsberg has been heavily involved in the Yara Birkeland, an autonomous container vessel currently being completed and commissioned in Norway. Although the subject of this piece is smart shipping, this element is a key step in the evolution, ultimately, to autonomous vessels.

Kongsberg’s intelligent digital platform, Kognifai, enables 3rd party data analytics companies to bring their solutions to a much larger shipping fleet. In addition, one of the company’s key smart shipping and IoT solutions is “Vessel Insight Benchmark”. The new application aims to provide ship metrics and data insights to improve a vessel or a fleet of vessel’s performance and was launched in the middle of 2020. The maritime digital application looks to provide a data-driven insight into the vessel operating profile compared to vessels of similar size and type. The service is based on common definitions and high quality data that provides an instant historic perspective. It is understood 37 per cent of the firm’s maritime revenues are recurring basis. The firm had more 30,000 vessels with vessel insight installed.

The Finnish company, Wärtsilä, defining its products and services within the smart shipping realm in itself would be a 50,000 word thesis focusing upon operational efficiencies and cost savings. However, a short summary includes the firm serves Anglo-Eastern’s fleet, more than 600 vessels, with its Fleet Optimisation Solution, a digitalisation suite that enhances efficiency and performance via route optimisation, speed management, weather routing, ship-to-shore reporting, and fleet performance management to reduce fuel consumption. Other services offered include a new online platform that allows companies to manage their installations more efficiently, and the remote accessibility of experts. This tool leverages artificial intelligence and advanced diagnostics to remotely monitor equipment and systems in real time. The firm has quickly transformed its business model to a SaaS rather than traditional CAPEX business model. Consequently, managing the lifecycle of an asset has become paramount and performance gains are achieved via upgrades, fuel conversions, and using data analytics and artificial intelligence to support its customer business decisions. Even by the end of 2019, the business of equipment sales to service revenues were equally split.

ABB launched ABB Ability in 2017, digital portfolio that offers hundreds of digital solutions to increase productivity and safety cost effectively. The solution is part of an integrated global network of round-the-clock operations centers that can take care of the full scope of ABB systems on board vessels from afar. Remote diagnostics of shipboard equipment has become a key feature of shipping over the last decade. Sensor-driven onboard monitoring software that fully integrates with analytics ashore plays a central role in facilitating this approach and ABB believes that there are clear maintenance savings available to owners that commit to its package as digitally connected on-duty engineers can solve cases remotely 24/7.

Traditional connectivity providers such as Inmarsat, KVH Industries and others are also embracing the smart shipping revolution. For example, Inmarsat now provides dedicated IoT and operational service called Fleet Data. The service or digital ecosystem enables 3rd party data analytic vendors or other solutions to “plug-in” their applications for Inmarsat’s FX vessels. This could be simply to aggregate data functions allowing the user of the service to easily view, monitor, analyse and compare performances of vessel operations. Inmarsat has made Fleet Data available to all its FX and FB vessels – more than 40,000 vessels. The service is offered on a yearly subscription basis and it is estimated that the basic package starts from $1,000 per year, however, costs obviously vary upon the application’s data usage from a bandwidth and capacity standpoint.

KVH provides a similar stand-alone IoT service which it launched in June 2019. The solution has three modes: Watch Flow, for 24/7, machine-to-machine (M2M) data delivery compatible with all IoT applications; Flow Intervention for a boosted data capacity and speeds for bulk file transfers, application updates, and general access to the onboard endpoint. Remote Expert Intervention is an on-demand high-speed session for remote face-to-face support and remote equipment access. The company hopes KVH Watch service enable hardware manufacturers, data analytic companies and other IoT service firms to have their own dedicated VSAT terminal.

The Watch Flow plan starts from as little as $99 per month and customers do not need to purchase an AgilePlans subscription for the IoT service. The price of the plan is primarily dependent on the number of sensors and data requirements of the user.

As stated above, many companies are addressing elements of the smart shipping market in different ways. This patchwork of solutions is a start but still in the primary stages of development.

The availability and price of ship satellite connectivity is much better than, say, 5 years ago, and, providing simple solutions to streamline processes onboard a vessel is easy to translate into operational and financial gains.

It is expected that a swarm of bigger companies will develop holistic system solutions that will provide a complete oversight and co-ordination for all the software inputs feeding it. These may be companies outside of the maritime sphere.

Market Dynamics

Satellite connectivity is becoming ever more cost effective. It’s highly commoditized and we will see a raft of mergers and acquisitions in the next 18 months within the maritime connectivity sphere.

One natural strategy for service providers and operators will be to include and upsell more value added services. Cybersecurity protection and IoT solutions will become focal services in the next two years. Services providers will likely generate more than 40 per cent of their revenues from these new services rather than the connectivity airtime within this period.
We will also see it as much more common practice for hardware companies, such as Wartsila or Kongsberg to own their communication terminals onboard customer vessels. Control and accessibility of their resources will be more critical than ever. KVH Industries will likely see some strong upsides from this trend.

Valour Consultancy’s key takeaways

1. The initial stages of the smart shipping evolution are now fully developed.
2. A concise and clear definition of a smart vessel is possible, how many smart ships sailing the oceans is still unclear. However, there are many smart shipping solutions being used.
3. Following the last point, the number of maritime digital applications has exploded and hundreds of vendors are pushing their services.
4. Large number of acquisitions will be undertaken by the leading companies of hardware manufacturers and service providers.
5. Service providers will become kingmakers in this field by 2026 onwards, we believe they will quickly purchase the leading 3rd party maritime analytic companies.
6. The end game is autonomous vessels.
Source: By Joshua Flood, Senior Research Consultant, Valour Consultancy (www.valourconsultancy.com)

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