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6 technologies that will make waves in the marine industry in 2019

By Matt Hodson, Marine Hub Operations Director, Cornwall Development Company

The scope of the development currently happening in the marine industry is really impressive. Here is a brief overview of six new technologies that will be making headlines during the coming year.

1. Blockchain

There is huge interest within the shipping industry about the impact that blockchain technology will have on trade around the world.  Currently, the amount of paperwork required for one shipload of cargo can run to hundreds of pages and take days to complete. A number of innovative start-ups are exploring the potential for this to move to one integrated, digitised system. Not only would this mean that the process could be completed in minutes, it would also offer better security and allow for many of the functions to be carried out automatically, without the need for human intervention. Many industry observers believe that this could be the biggest revolution in shipping since the standardisation of container freight in the 1960s.

2. Autonomous Vessels

Rolls Royce recently completed the successful trial of an autonomous ship and has plans in place to develop an autonomous cargo vessel over the next six years. Their test was carried out in Finland using a car ferry fitted with Rolls Royce technology, with cameras and sensors scanning the seas. The outward journey was completed autonomously, including the docking procedure. For the return journey, the ship was controlled remotely from a command centre 30 miles away. Other companies are now investing heavily in this new technology and some analysts are predicting that the worldwide market for autonomous ships and container vessels could reach $14 billion by 2030.

3. Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is already playing a growing role in training teams in the shipping industry. VR has the benefits of providing a highly detailed visual representation of the training task; the falling cost of VR headsets makes this type of training more affordable; and staff can be trained remotely rather that having to travel to a central training centre. VR will start to find its way into other areas of the industry, such as in ship design, where it gives designers the opportunity to experiment and trial different internal layouts for ships and to test other aspects such as people movement for passenger ships and fire evacuation procedures. 3D models of ships can be converted into VR which allows prospective clients to ‘walk through’ the structure and to better understand how all the different elements of the design will work together.

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI and machine learning will have an important part to play in the control systems for the autonomous ships of the future and also in port operations. The Port of Rotterdam has recently activated its own AI platform. It wants to make use of what it calls the “sea of data” that is available to manage its operation more efficiently and to more accurately predict vessel arrivals. They claim they can now predict a vessel’s arrival within a 20-minute window, for ships that are currently 7 days away from the port. In the future, they believe they will be able to calculate arrival times for vessels that are as much as 30 days away, by analysing their entire route. Other ports around the world are pursuing similar projects. Future AI systems will also help with predictive maintenance programmes and efficient warehouse management.

5. Industrial IoT

The marine industry is a sector where adoption of IoT has been relatively high. Maersk is one of the leaders in this field, with its intelligent tracking and management system for cargo containers. Maersk’s system enables them to track the exact location of any one of their 270,000 containers and to monitor key management information in real time. This means they can give an improved service to their customers, while enhancing their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. IoT can also be used to monitor the condition and maintenance of key equipment, assist with port operations, and manage the movement of goods and people, and enhancing port security systems.

6. Drones

Drones have a vital role to play in the inspection of marine assets. There has already been a great deal of development work on drone systems for surveying offshore installations such as wind turbines, and this will grow further during 2019.  Within the shipping industry, drones will increasingly be used for ship inspections and routine maintenance, as well as surveying the cargo in the hold. This reduces the number of staff that are required and also eliminates hazardous work for crew members. The high definition cameras that are now available can help to improve the accuracy of the outputs. Drones now exist which can sample the fumes from ship’s engines, thus helping to ensure compliance with emission regulations.


You can see from the above that there are many emerging opportunities for innovative marine technology businesses. Companies large and small have an important part to play in helping develop these new technologies to their full potential.

Even if your business is completely new to the marine technology sector, the Marine-i team can give you the expert guidance and support you need to bring your innovation to market more quickly and with the greatest chance of success.