Continuing rapid technological innovation and development is likely to transform all aspects of the global maritime sector over the next 15 years. This is the thrust of a report published last month, ‘Global Marine Technology Trends 2030’. This analysis was jointly developed by the Lloyd’s Register Group (the British maritime classification society and also a business and technology services group), Qinetiq (a British high-technology research and development company) and the University of Southampton (in England).
“Technology development is accelerating and will continue to do so,” notes the report. “There is no indication that its rapid pace will slow in the next 15 years, nor will the trend toward the increasingly integrated nature of technology applications reverse.”
The team behind the report looked at in excess of 56 “critical technologies” that could be developed and brought into service in the commercial shipping, ocean space and naval sectors by about 2030. From this list, they chose 18 technologies for closer analysis, these being the ones that “scored the highest in a net assessment combining technical feasibility on a commercial basis, potential marketability, and, most importantly, their transformational impact on the respective sectors”.
The technologies selected were advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, autonomous systems, big data analytics, carbon capture and storage, communications technology, cyber and electronic warfare, deep ocean mining, energy management, human augmentation, human-computer interaction, marine biotechnology, propulsion and powering, robotics, sensors, shipbuilding, smart ship and sustainable energy generation. For commercial shipping, the most applicable technologies were evaluated to be advanced materials, big data analytics, communications technology, propulsion and powering, robotics, sensors, shipbuilding and smart ship. “These technologies are transformational in nature when used individually and when combined.”
It is expected that different types of commercial ships will apply these technologies differently. However, in all cases, the result will be the emergence of “TechnoMax” ships by 2030, when “optimal” technological implementation will have been achieved. “These ships will be smarter, data-driven, greener, with flexible powering options, fully connected wirelessly onboard, [and] digitally connected through global satellites.” It is likely that only a small number of countries will be able to design and build such ships.
Thus, TechnoMax ships will permit classification societies to access data required for classification and safety analyses (and for other services sought by the client), ship operators will have full possession of operational and performance data and ship owners (not necessarily the ship operators) will have the data on the complete material state of the ship. Further, the owners of the cargo will be constantly able to monitor the material state of that cargo and the schedule of the ship, while port and national authorities will be able to access crew, cargo and safety data and regulatory authorities will be able to monitor full compliance with statutory requirements.
The simultaneous implementation of different technologies and at different levels will require the crews of TechnoMax ships to be both highly skilled and multiskilled. They will also be much smaller than today (although more shore-based servicing jobs may be created). Ship owners and/or operators will have to have service agreements with the original-equipment manufacturers of the vessels, their propulsion, data, communications, sensor, robotic and other systems, resulting in them remotely monitoring and servicing these systems.