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Digitalisation of bulk shipping - Part 2

March 11, 2020
Elisa Hauhia

Previous: Digitalisation of bulk shipping Part 1

We are back with Melvin Mathews (MM), our maritime expert, who has kindly taken time from his busy schedule to answer a few industry questions regarding digitalisation. Melvin, in your opinion, how can the bulk industry digitalise, what are the main points?

MM: Digitalisation of the bulk industry commences at the interface between the shipowner and the charterer. This is where business transpires. It has been noticed in other industries that there is accelerated adoption of digitalisation when there is commercial incentive to do so or when it is a question of survival. It is no different in the bulk cargo sector.

The tipping point may perhaps be apparent when there is a solution that addresses every possible commercial adventure, from voyage charter, time charter, COA, and pools, as well as every type of cargo combinations from bulk and part cargoes to break bulk and project cargoes.

Ideally all stakeholders need to partake in the digitalisation journey, starting with shipowners, charterers, brokers, agents, terminals - everyone.

Exactly right! There are always two sides to the coin: What do you see are the possible risks or pitfalls in the transition to digitalisation, and how could ship owners and charterer avoid them?

MM: Companies that have not made an early move towards digitalisation, it can appear daunting. This is especially true if they do not have the expertise in-house.

Only those software solutions that are most relevant to your business goals should be opted for. This is perhaps one of those instances where it is not ideal to go for three quotations and select the cheapest one. The perfect one is easy to implement and maintain, brings in efficiency, reduces bottom line and improves the top line.

With digitalisation and connectivity comes the other side of the coin, which is cyber security. Ideally any tech solution should have this inbuilt and from the very start be cybersecurity enabled.

Any organisation embarking on digitalisation must manage the change well, as it means change in old processes and procedures while adopting new ones. Long-time employees may have to be retrained to take on the new roles that come with digitalisation or learn to use the efficiency of the new system.

Subject matter experts must work with data analysts to bring context and verification to data driven insights. Leadership must ensure that insights only from reliable data is used to make decisions.

Interesting! And then the good side: What are the benefits of digitalisation, both long and short term?

MM: Digital point solutions are a great start in the process of digitalising the entire bulk segment, but it is only when they begin seamlessly sharing information that the bulk supply-chain really comes alive and can proactively react to shocks in the market from political uncertainty or natural calamities.

In the long-term digitalisation also acts as the stepping stone into the future, in terms of automation and autonomous operations. It will begin with parts of the supply-chain being automated. An example is Rio Tinto, where their unmanned trains and trucks are not just run autonomously but loading and unloading is completely automated as well.

Eventually more complex supply-chain operations will be automated as there is free flow of data and information. This will lead to a flexible supply-chain that can in real-time automatically react to mining or production delays, cargo bottlenecks, transportation interruptions, manufacturing disruption, trade embargos, natural calamities, trade wars, and so on.

However, the greatest gains will be in the commercial aspects of business being digitalised. This is because commercial contracts, transactions and payments will take a fraction of the time it takes today. Better visibility and transparency will also ensure smaller number of claims and even those being sorted quickly.

Digitalisation will certainly change the way things are currently. While new pathways will be created, digital adaptability and innovation will be key to success in the bulk segment. For any company this means differentiation in services, agility to react to market quickly, competitiveness and profitability, which ensures longevity and sustainability of current business.

We certainly agree, and want to remind our readers Seaber is here to help. Whether you are a shipowner or a charterer in bulk shipping, and the above interests you, let’s talk. Contact us to find out more!

Thank you Melvin, for your invaluable input today. We wish you all the best!

You can follow Seaber and Melvin on Linkedin.

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