Written by Dana Jongens, Global Partnerships and Strategic Development Manager
Connecting shipping for a more sustainable future
The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) 40% emission reduction target by 2030 has put sustainability firmly at the forefront of the shipping industry’s minds. Actionable change must be taken and taken seriously, and it’s no surprise that the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day echoes that: ‘New technologies for greener shipping’. There is a wide range of technologies and innovations being deployed and developed to reduce the environmental impact of the maritime sector which are all underpinned by connectivity and communications. The ability to communicate ship to shore and back again from shore to ship empowers efficiency and ensures impeccable safety worldwide, which all play a role in maintaining ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) targets and goals.
Sustainability now means more than emissions targets and carbon neutrality, sustainability has adapted to encompass the three Ps: planet, people, and profit. This signifies a more holistic way of looking at sustainability in all industries, including shipping by considering overall impact. Innovation around sustainability often positively impacts more than one element and leads to better practices in the long term.
The maritime industry is now under increased pressure to hit sustainability targets, not only for themselves but also for their partners. This is because organisations are now measuring sustainability across the entire supply chain, including shipping. This means that shipping companies must now be accountable and consistently hit targets in order to stay ahead of competitors.
In addition to this, the maritime industry is looking to adhere to the Poseidon principles which have been set by financial institutions to promote sustainability. This framework is in line with the IMO’s targets and can impact funding or insurance for shipping vessels.
As ships have a working lifespan of around 20 years, designs are already being drawn up with the IMO’s 2050 target in mind. This target is to cut emissions by 70% and will rely on technologies which have not yet been developed such as alternative fuel. In the meantime, shipping companies are looking to reduce emissions in their current fleet. To reduce environmental impact, shipping companies are now using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to measure the operations of a vessel. This data is then transmitted to the shore where it is analysed, driving the decision-making process in future voyages. This data transmission between the shore and ship is only made possible by the latest satellite communication technologies. Digital analysis is also used for fuel optimisation which can vastly reduce emissions from ships.
Innovators in the industry are now looking to create products that are future-proof and have longevity in order to reduce waste and emissions in the production process. Intellian’s latest NX series fulfils this demand for durable and useful tech. These antennas can be converted to track LEO, MEO and GEO so can be used in different contexts without the need to replace the device for various uses.
During the pandemic, 400,000 seafarers were reported to be stuck at sea due to lockdown restrictions. This created a major human rights issue as crews are often expected to work extremely long hours, even working seven days a week. This issue has shone a light on crew welfare issues and put people at the forefront of the discussion around sustainability, particularly crews spending months at sea.
Connectivity is a major factor in the drive to promote welfare on vessels. To reduce mental strain on crews, staying in touch with friends and family at home is extremely important. With advancements in satellite technology, crew members can now communicate with their family more easily, even in the remotest locations. This reduces mental health problems and boosts morale onboard. In a similar way, satellite televisions now provide seafarers with a better choice of entertainment which helps to make their days more balanced and enjoyable. In a digitally connected society, the next generation will expect a high level of connectivity no matter where they are on the globe. As connectivity is so important in modern life, the maritime industry must adapt to keep attracting talent into the industry and improve the conditions of crews already at sea.
Health and safety on board can also be supported through new developments in satellite communications. This is essential in flagging potential hazards and crisis situations in order to signal for assistance. Satcoms can also be used to monitor extreme weather conditions and reroute as needed to avoid danger. There are even methods for remote assistance such as telemedicine which can be used to outsource expertise from individuals onshore to crew needing support.
Although sustainability is often considered in altruistic terms, profit margins are essential to keep businesses afloat. Even in times of economic downturns, sustainability must continue to be prioritised. This is because the market now sees sustainable practices as equally important to other factors such as cost. To stay ahead, shipping companies must implement a watertight sustainability policy which utilises all technology available to have the best outcome.
Profit is also intrinsically linked to people. 90% of the world’s traded goods travels by sea, and in order to keep the shipping industry profitable, skilled crews are necessary to maintain routes. IoT technology on board can also give shipping companies a clearer idea of how to spend effectively to promote crew welfare based on how onboard technology is used.
Fuel optimisation, as well as reducing emissions, can also lead to reduced cost for shipping companies. Digital decarbonisation can also lower cost in energy as the vessel is working more efficiently and waste is being reduced.
Satellites connect ships to the shore in order to guarantee the best possible use of a vessel, route and fuel available. By monitoring all aspects of a vessel’s activity and analysing it onshore, companies can achieve the best results financially and in terms of emissions. Without satellite technology, this level of communication would not be possible.
As the industry looks to a greener future, technology empowers shipping to be better in many respects, reducing its carbon footprint and allowing for better conditions onboard. ESG and sustainable practices rely on more than just reduced carbon and must consider the industry as a whole. Connectivity and satellite communications is at the heart of this change and will continue to be central going forward.