5 Examples of Information Technology and Modern Communication in Shipping

The freight shipping industry certainly has a rich and diverse history, and over the years, leaders in the field have kept the innovation processes going to integrate new solutions, technologies, and pioneer digital transformation. It is, therefore, unsurprising to see that the shipping industry has embraced numerous key technologies in the wake of the digital revolution – technologies that improve safety at sea while expediting numerous processes, ensuring compliance and helping run a smooth operation while maintaining an efficient and effective supply chain.

Among the technological changes that have brought better stability and efficiency to the sector, information and communication technologies have definitely had the biggest impact over the years, and continue to reshape the industry during difficult times like the COVID-19 crisis. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the examples of information and communication technology currently used within the shipping industry and how it’s changing the sector for the better.


Automatic identification system

Firstly, we have the Automatic Identification System (AIS), carried by all passenger ships and freight ships as a mandatory requirement and easy way to identify the vessel as it passes through customs or during a routine control by the coastguard. The automatic identification system provides information about the vessel that includes:

  • The ships name;
  • IMO (International Maritime Organization) number;
  • Call sign;
  • Maritime Mobile Service Identity;
  • Position;
  • Speed;
  • Heading;
  • Rate-of-turn;
  • Next port;
  • Estimated time of arrival to next port;
  • Number of people aboard the vessel.

This data is available to all ships that are equipped with AIS displays, the coastguard authorities, vessel traffic systems, customs control, as well as various on-shore services like docks and shipping warehouses that need to track incoming vessels. Given the fact that this data is now transmitted in sync with GPS systems, it can be relayed in real-time and with precision.


Communications installation features

There are many communication systems that modern ships have to carry on board in order to ensure seamless and timely communication with other vessels and on-shore facilities while elevating the safety and security of the cargo as well as the passengers. These technologies are regularly improved and upgraded as the years go by, however, standard and highly-effective systems have been in place for quite some time due to their reliability and durability at sea.

For example, modern freight ships are equipped with:

  • A very high-frequency transceiver;
  • A high-frequency transmitter;
  • A medium frequency transceiver;
  • An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB);
  • A Search and Rescue Radar Transponder (SART);
  • A Navtex system;
  • A Satcom C system;
  • Supporting Inmarsat Sat B, M, and mini M systems.

These communication systems are mandatory and essential for the safety of freight ships at sea, but it’s important to note that cloud-based technology is also making its way into the industry.


VoIP cloud-based phone systems

Innovative solutions drive the shipping industry forward as a whole, and it’s important that we mention how cloud-based VoIP systems are facilitating smooth communication in the shipping sector, not just for ships at sea, but for all the actors in the supply chain. These include manufacturers, logistics companies, shipping companies, warehouses, and vendors. 

VoIP phone systems allow seamless communication between remote teams stationed all over the world without the typically high costs of international phone calls, which effectively elevates productivity, boosts collaboration and ensures efficiency in communication and collaboration between various actors in the supply chain system. Supported by additional digital solutions that VoIP brings to the table such as mobile optimization, video conferencing, and analytics tools, shipping companies and their partners are now able to improve the bottom line for the entire operation. 




Voyage data recording systems

Information technology not only allows for effective real-time communication and ship monitoring, among other things, but it also uses certain preventative solutions and post-accident technologies to elevate safety and ensure compliance. The main system in use is the “black box” of the shipping world, otherwise known as the Voyage Data Recording (VDR) system. While the primary purpose of this system is to aid the post-accident investigation process, companies can also use it for preventive maintenance, analysis, accident prevention, performance monitoring, and the reduction of the vessel’s overall running costs. 


Vessel traffic systems

Lastly, the Vessel Traffic Systems (VTS) are used to monitor all marine vessels within a certain radius, and it acts as an equivalent to the modern air traffic control systems used to navigate, monitor, and control all air traffic in a certain area. These systems are invaluable to vessel traffic control and the coastguard, and with the latest app and software development trends, the authorities and companies are able to monitor all ships in a port area efficiently and effectively from multiple locations, utilizing standard radar and digital technologies. 


Wrapping up

Without information technology and modern communication systems, the shipping industry would never have been able to achieve this level of efficiency and productivity on a global scale. As innovators keep coming up with new and improved solutions, business leaders are going to keep adopting the best technologies in the field to take their operations forward.

At SeaRates, companies can utilize our latest tools, which are continuously evolving, to speed up tasks and find ease in areas that were previously time-consuming.

Jolene Rutherford is a marketing specialist - turned blogger, currently writing for technivorz.com. Interested in digital marketing and new technology trends. Love sharing content that can help and inform people.


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