How has Technology changed the Shipping Industry?

Posted by John Onwuegbu | August 26, 2015 |

The shipping industry is a mystery to most people. Other than paying shipping and handling costs when sending gifts or packages, how much time do you actually spend contemplating the maritime industry? If you are like most people, very little.

Yet shipping affects everyone. This is one of the largest industries worldwide. It is estimated that more than 90% of the world’s trade is moved by the maritime commercial shipping industry. This industry has done much to contribute to the expanding global economy by enabling low-cost and efficient movement of goods around the world. Nearly everything, from the parcels you send to imported motor vehicles, food and clothing, relies on the shipping industry.

In spite of this, the industry has often been criticized for being habitually conservative and slow to adopt new changes. This reputation is about to change thanks to technology. In the last couple of decades or so, the industry has embraced quite a number of changes all rooted in technological advances. These changes have come at the right time too, since the shipping market is ready for them.

A raft of improvements and new technologies has revolutionized the way things are done in the industry. These include the development of new concepts such as open-hatch forest-product ships and car carries, development of more efficient hulls and propulsion systems and even the automation of ships. Other innovations that have led to notable transformations include dual-fuel technologies, scrubber technologies, as well as the continued modifications being made in ballast water management.

A number of factors have combined to create ideal conditions for the adoption of these recent technologies. These include the enactment of new environmental legislation and regulations, as well as the need to increase efficiency in the industry while reducing costs and saving money. Stricter environmental legislation has prompted and promoted changes in engine technologies, exhaust treatment and in the fuels used by ships.

Technology, especially the Internet, has also transformed how shipping businesses trade with their clients. For instance, if you are a small business owner who ships freight every day, you can make use of the Internet to find a shipping operator who meets your business needs. You can also easily track your cargo from port to port until it arrives at its destination. This has made it convenient for businesses to transact with each other as well as with their suppliers and clients.

The maritime industry does face increased competition from air travel. Due to this, ship owners and operators have had to embrace technology in order to increase their competitive edge. Some shipping businesses still manage to fare very well and remain profitable to date. A good example is Bolloré Africa Logistics, a leading shipping agency in Africa. In addition to operating 13 container terminals across Africa, this agency also manages terrestrial container operations and customs formalities in some ports across the continent.

The industry is continuously evolving, and more technological advances are needed to increase safety and reliability of ships. It is necessary to adapt to change if the maritime industry is to keep up with the rapidly developing world.