Smarter, cleaner, more connected: shipping’s digital future
Shipping’s transition to digital operations may have been slow to start, but the process is picking up speed, says Voyager Worldwide Product Manager Noel Fernando
A combination of advanced technology, better connectivity and efficiency measures have put the maritime industry on a course to digital operations.
The capturing of reliable data streams from ship design and construction through to lifecycle operations is driving greater efficiency and safety, enabling stakeholders to access digital models and interrogate real time data flows from the vessel.
The Maritime Labor Convention’s ‘mandatory’ internet access for seafarers could boost vessel bandwidth. We discussed about it in this blog here. Since the announcement, dozens of large shipowners have trialled or adopted emerging higher bandwidth, lower latency Low Earth Orbit satellite internet services, citing an improvement in crew welfare as the primary driver.
Regulations also play a crucial role. The International Maritime Organization’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the European Union’s inclusion of shipping in the Emission Trading System are creating an impetus towards more efficient and eco-friendly operations. While real-time data is not yet mandatory, providing frequent fuel consumption and emissions data enhances transparency and commercial competitiveness.
Also taking place is a shift from shipping’s paper-based operating heritage towards a digital future. The digitalisation process continues but progress is not always smooth. The announcement by the UK Hydrographic Office that it will stop production of paper charts by 2026, is further indication of the change taking place. The UKHO subsequently indicated it would continue to produce paper charts until at least 2030.
The shift to digital is a sea change for the industry as it seeks to break away from centuries of relying on paper charts. While plenty of ships have gone fully ‘paperless’ today, many still carry back-ups and ‘get me home’ paper charts in case of major system failure.
Vessels seeking to adopt and enhance digital navigation will reap the benefits of automatic navigation data updates using a secure dedicated hardware device like the Voyager Cube. It connects ship to shore with fully automated transfer of navigation data to keep ECDIS and Voyager Planning Station up to date and compliant, removing the need for manual transfer of updates and permits via USB.
Transitioning from paper charts to digital navigation is a major shift for mariners. Safety and regulatory compliance demand reliable systems and mariner confidence in data. The Voyager Cube simplifies this process with a secure automatic link for chart data, from the cloud to the ECDIS. Internet access is restricted to the Voyager secure cloud server for download of navigation data.
Better connectivity means more frequent electronic chart corrections and notices to mariners, moving from weekly to daily updates. With automatic updating, this frees mariners to focus on other tasks. The maritime’s shift towards digital operations, driven by advanced technology, connectivity, and efficiency, not only improves safety and efficiency but also aligns with regulatory and eco-friendly goals.
Digital navigation is just one aspect of a larger narrative; gathering data from ships allows owners to gain a more accurate understanding of overall vessel performance. A data-rich environment supports the broader goal of optimizing voyages for timely arrivals, efficiency, reduced fuel consumption, and lower carbon emissions while ensuring safety. All this leads to a smarter, cleaner, more connected digital future for the maritime industry.