Hot Topics and Takeaways from SMM Hamburg

Another successful SMM is in the books. This year brought together more than 50,000 visitors from 120 countries. In today’s blog, we touch on the hottest topics at the exhibition and give our perspectives on each.

The Tres team was in full force at SMM Hamburg this year, covering hot topics of today and the future.  Are digital technologies such as machine learning (ML), artificial reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) disrupting the shipping industry? What energy sources will propel our vessels in the future? What is new in the “performance” world? We will explore each of these questions in more detail below:

Are digital technologies such as ML, AR, VR and AI disrupting the shipping industry?

Advanced digital technologies are not new to us but the past couple years have seen innovators and early adopters trying to improve technologies and make it more applicable to the industry. We are just now moving past the hype and seeing more practical solutions entering the market.

I visited with Siemens, who are among the notable suppliers using Virtual Reality (VR) for training crews to service its products, such as propulsion units. The technology has the potential to save time and increase efficiency for crews. This is just the beginning and we expect to continue to see new and more feasible technologies entering the market place. In fact, the Tres team has started testing machine learning algorithms to automate portions of performance optimization (stay tuned!).

In summary, we are not yet at a stage where these modern technologies are widely adopted and disrupting the industry. However, roll-out and adoption will inevitably pick up pace, in favor of those technologies that contribute to improving the quality of operations and support increased efficiency (and cost savings). The key will be to ensure these technologies are practical and economical for consumers.

Simulation tools and VR being used for training in operation and service of equipment.

What energy sources will propel our vessels in the future?

The upcoming Sulphur cap in 2020 has been a hot topic for some time and a major part of the conversations at SMM. Ship owners are being forced to consider short- and long-term market and regulatory dynamics.

In the near-term, the decision is whether to install scrubbers or source low Sulphur fuel. In the long-term, they are thinking about what energy should propel their vessels.

A major scrubber supplier described this as clearly being supplier’s market with high demand and order books filling up quickly. However, if we look further into the future, IMO have defined ambitious targets for the shipping industry to reduce absolute emissions, which will not be solved solely by reducing emission of sulfur to the atmosphere.

The industry will need to look at utilizing alternative energy sources that will reduce the absolute emissions, which may be implemented in combination with energy saving technologies such as wind assisted propulsion, air lubrication etc. The alternative energy sources could be fossil fuel types such as LNG. This has already been ordered by the liner CMA CGM or LPG for which MAN just launched their first 2-stroke design during the SMM exhibition. To meet the IMO target of a 50% reduction in shipping emissions by 2050, we will need to look at non-fossil energy sources, which could be everything from batteries, fuel cells powered by hydrogen or new biofuel products. These are not yet ready for adoption in large scale, but we may see these mature in near future as the outlook for high fuel prices will spur the development of alternatives.

Flettner Rotors used for wind assisted propulsion (trial with single rotor is currently ongoing)

What is new in the “performance” world?

We noticed an increase in the number of providers advertising “performance” in various booths and speeches. Why? The short answer is “fuel prices”. There is no question that suppliers intensify marketing on this topic when the cost of energy is high (and going higher).

As we have previously highlighted, ship owners and technical managers will be inundated with “performance-enhancing” products and services. Many of these certainly have benefits, however, there is a danger to oversubscribing to these services. Small performance teams have no way to use or monitor multiple platforms in parallel.

What’s the solution?

Suppliers (including Tres) need to consider how their offerings are going to co-exist or integrate with other services in the market. The industry has historically resisted collaboration, but this will be a requisite in an increasingly connected world.

Tres has stepped up its efforts to collaborate, seeking to be the platform of choice that integrates AIS satellite, weather and auto-logged data.

There is no right or wrong answer among the different approaches, but we think that suppliers will be most successful if they manage to collaborate with other suppliers to provide fleet wide solutions that can be widely adopted by owners.

Tres has stepped up its efforts to collaborate, seeking to be the platform of choice that integrates AIS satellite, weather and auto-logged data.

Conclusion

The aforementioned topics are only a small portion of the many trendsetting technologies and products covered at SMM Hamburg. Feel free to reach out if you would like additional perspectives on these or other hot industry topics. We are always happy to discuss!

If we did not manage to meet during the exhibition or you would like to discuss more about how our products could help improve fleet and vessel performance or how we could potentially collaborate, please click here or email connect@tressolutions.com.

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