How Technology Is Changing the World of International Shipping

Jan 2, 2021 Robert Martin Robert Martin

It’s without a doubt that global trade and international shipping have grown tremendously over the years. Rapid tech adoption by all the trade players is mainly responsible for this shift in the international business landscape. Today, cargo transportation is highly digitized, allowing businesses and customers to track their freight more efficiently. 

So, which technologies specifically have revolutionized the international shipping industry? And how have they made global trades more transparent and convenient? We’ve answered these questions and more below.

Technologies Transforming the Shipping Industries 

Different technological innovations have played a vital role in the making of the current shipping industry. There’s a lot that was not possible a decade ago but has become more mainstream today. Autonomous ships, for instance, might have been considered risky or even impossible, but people have come to trust this technology faster than we would have imagined.

Here are the key tech trends shaping the international shipping landscape.

1. Robotics and Automation 

Not so long ago, humans were tasked with sorting orders and loading cargo for delivery to different destinations. Not only was this process cumbersome and slow, but it was also prone to costly errors. Robotic technology first kicked in to help with labor-intensive tasks such as loading and offloading heavy cargo. Later on, smarter, smaller, and autonomous machines that could select, pack, inspect and load cargo came to the market. 

One major advantage of robots is that they don’t need any break or day off. That means they can work at the optimum speed possible to meet the market demand. Today, all the major shipping industries are fully fitted with robots that boost efficiency, minimize errors, and free humans of physically taxing jobs.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a technology that allows smart devices, machines, and processes to be connected on one single network through the cloud. IoT consists majorly of GPS and real-time data collected by critical devices on the ship. The information obtained from sensors and robots is channeled through a wireless network and could be leveraged to inform decision-making.

Through IoT, shipping companies can ensure real-time ocean visibility, where they can track the location of the ship, the speed, and even the condition of the freight. Customers can also log in to some cloud-based account and check the estimated arrival time, any issues that could arise, delays, and other essential metrics. In other words, IoT is the eye on the ground. It eliminates the need for constant communications via phone calls or emails as every bit of data is captured by sensors and conveyed to the data center.

3. Big Data and Analytics 

IoT without big data and analytics isn’t complete. All the data collected from the sensors and channeled to the data centers need some high-level data interpreters. These systems replace humans in discriminating the various information and sorting through junk data to find what is important. By leveraging machine learning and natural language processing, big data and analytics offer an intuitive interface between machines and humans. 

4. Blockchain Technology 

Blockchain technology is simply a way of efficiently recording and managing data to replace tedious spreadsheets, logbooks, and individual databases. This system is a form of distributed ledger that records changes chronologically, reducing errors, delays, and fraud. 

It is one of the big four trending technologies in the maritime industry, besides cybersecurity, IoT, autonomous ships, and drones. As a cloud-based application designed for enhanced security and convenience, several other sectors such as finance and healthcare have embraced this technology. 

5. Modern Propulsion Techniques 

For a long time, ships have been known to use lots of fuel with adverse environmental effects. Today, some emission propulsion techniques substitute ordinary fuels with low-carbon alternatives. The results are reduced emission of greenhouse gases like sulfur and carbon. Similarly, several modifications have been made to the hulls, sails, and other parts, helping increase propulsion.

Understanding the Flip Side and Securing These Technologies 

All the technologies we’ve discussed above come with some shortcomings. Like any other industry that has adopted cutting-edge technologies, cybersecurity has been a major cause for concern in the shipping industry. This is primarily due to the adoption of cloud and IoT technologies. 

Some of the best cybersecurity measures range from implementing a robust firewall, using password management systems to educating employees on cybersecurity issues. Even then, there’s a need to keep updating your cybersecurity strategies since cyberattacks are getting sophisticated with time.

A rule of thumb is to manage all the technological risks using automated tools that continuously monitor vulnerabilities and loopholes within your network. The benefit of an automated risk management solution is that as the threat landscape changes, so do the responses and mitigation measures. That gives your shipping business a competitive edge against the cyber attackers who often exploit the smallest vulnerabilities they can find within your network.

Robert is a marketing strategist and a writer at LuckyAssignments and GumEssays. He endeavors to help companies grow and develop their brands effectively in today’s fast-changing and demanding consumer market. His biggest strength is in social media marketing, which he believes is the most powerful method for advertising. He writes mostly on business but is also interested in health, lifestyle and online gaming.