IoT: a gateway to maritime sustainability

Shipping’s customary divided opinion on new technology is highlighted in an Inmarsat Research Programme report that includes hard data on how far the industry sees IoT-based solutions as a gateway to sustainability.

As we come to the end of 2018, shipping faces not only the need to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2020 fuel sulphur cap, but also the target set out at the Maritime Environment Protection Committee in April to halve GHG ship emissions by 2050.  Typically, the industry has appeared split between those seeing advantage in developing an environmental edge and those driven largely by compliance.

As far as 2020 is concerned, compliance is becoming the imperative. Recently-published International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) guidance, Compliance with the 2020 Global Sulphur Cap, suggests that companies running ships without Exhaust Gas Recovery (scrubbers) will need to order compliant fuels (0.5% sulphur content) from mid-2019. ICS also strongly recommends developing ship-specific implementation plans as soon as possible.

Divided opinion on technology drivers

Shipping’s opinion divide on the environment as a technology driver is very evident among 750 respondents to this year’s Inmarsat research report, Industrial IoT on Land and at Sea, and fishing industry professionals.

Among shipping respondents, the report shows that environmental monitoring is seen by 46% as one of the most important drivers for deploying IoT-based solutions. The figure exactly matches the proportion established for respondents from all the sectors surveyed, which included agriculture, mining and transport.

Around 34% of organisations across the supply chain already see improvements in sustainability through their use of IIoT, and 43% expect to do so in future. At first sight, experience and outlook of shipping respondents is moderately behind the curve, with 30% characterising their organisations as having achieved sustainability benefits, and 42% expecting to do so.

Progressives versus laggards

However, dig a little deeper and shipping’s unremarkable level of recognition of the IoT as an enabler for sustainability overall is exposed as disguising the divide between technology ‘progressives’ and ‘laggards’. The progressives are already showing themselves as attuned to using IoT-based solutions as strategic tools to improve efficiency and enhancing energy usage. However, our research shows that the maritime industry – like no other constituency – includes a 14% rump of respondents who say that sustainability is not even one of their organisation’s aims for IoT deployment.

In the cost-conscious world of shipping, it is surely more than coincidence that 14% of maritime respondents also believe that, even five years out, there will be no savings at all resulting from the adoption of IoT-based solutions. By way of comparison, some 54% of peers in the mass transit and inland distribution industries identify improving resource efficiency as a primary driver for IIoT adoption.

In fact, left to their own devices, shipping respondents overall cite health and safety more often as an IoT deployment driver (in 54% of cases), and they do so in greater numbers than the wider transport group (50%) or respondents overall (46%).

Compliance as a motivator

However, as one of the world’s most heavily regulated industries, shipping is seldom if ever left to its own devices. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings in the new report, therefore, is that it shows environmental regulation working strongly in favour of IoT deployment. Where only 19% of respondents overall categorised meeting regulations as a main driver for IoT deployment, shipping respondents cited it as a main motivator in 39% of cases – the highest proportion given by any group.

The IIoT at Land and Sea report establishes that, despite its foot draggers, 47% of shipping respondents are collecting data for the purpose of environmental monitoring: this compares to 40% of respondents across the supply chain.

With 69% of maritime respondents counting themselves as reliant on satellite connectivity to support their IIoT-based solutions, Inmarsat has already shown itself as a willing and proactive partner in addressing fuel efficiency. Notably, we have been working with Rolls-Royce to make its Energy Management system available via Fleet Xpress. We have developed Fleet Data, where connectivity via a ship’s onboard Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) will enable real-time data analysis and decision-making, addressing a key point of resistance to IoT-based solutions identified in our report.

Nevertheless, shipping’s distinctly average enthusiasm overall for sustainability as a driver for IoT deployment contrasts strongly with the regulatory impetus to monitor fuel consumption that sees 65% reporting that they already use IoT-based solutions. An additional 9% say they will do so within a year while, in an apparent commitment to meet regulatory obligations, deployment is projected as reaching 100% by 2023.

The preparedness no doubt reflects the fact that shipping is already required to meet the EU MRV (Monitoring, Reporting and Verification) scheme, while Fuel Consumption Reporting within the IMO Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan is not far behind. By April 2019, and by the same month in subsequent years, for example, verified annual emission reports must be submitted for every ship above 5,000gt to the EC and the relevant flag state.

Given that shipping’s place in the public consciousness is often limited to criticisms made after things go wrong, IoT tools that the industry itself identifies as easing compliance should be given priority by regulators.

About the author

Stefano Poli joined Inmarsat in 2013. He has led activities in different capacities within the Global Xpress team, the Chief Technical Office, the Corporate Strategy team and most recently within the Maritime Business Unit where he currently runs the Business Development department.

Prior to Inmarsat Stefano worked both in technical and commercial roles in Alena Spazio, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (as part of the European Commission’s Executive Training Programme) and Thales Alenia Space.

In 2009 Stefano was presented the Promise Award by the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). He holds a Master Degree with honours in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Rome and Executive MBA with honours from the IMD Business School of Lausanne.

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