”There are disruptive elements in the air, and we all need to look beyond our own industries”
Sauli Eloranta, Rolls-Royce

According to an old saying, it takes a whole village to raise a child; within maritime industry, one might say it takes the whole industry to refine digitalisation. It is only through collaboration and sharing lessons learned, that we are able to produce the very best solutions for the whole industry.

This is where ECOPRODIGI is strong: with 21 partners from five countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, we are able to learn from different perspectives, harness multiple methods and accommodate a variety of views under one roof. Even if our collaboration has already had a fantastic kick-start, we are more than interested in looking beyond our current research and learning from others – which took me to Slush’s side event ‘Digitalizing Maritime Business’, organised by Finnish Marine Industries.

The status quo

The Conference highlighted the fact that maritime industry itself is painfully aware that they are lagging behind in the great wave of digitalisation. “We are the worst (industry) ever” admitted Wärtsilä’s Jörgen Strandberg, when it comes to change. However, I am happy to report that this stated reluctance was completely absent in the Conference, which gathered together 340 interested individuals to learn about the newest streams in the industry on a wintery afternoon.

The themes, even if technology-dominated, pressed the importance of co-operation and networking across the field and over the borders. The attendees were reminded to look beyond their own industry for innovation and inspiration, and keep the customer focus in the centre at all times.

Looking into the future

The event was hosted by Tero Hottinen from Cargotec, who reminded the attendees that autonomous does not necessarily imply unmanned; the ultimate goal indeed is to get rid of human errors, which the technology will eventually allow. Mikko Lepistö from ABB showed how their ABB Ability Marine Pilot Vision did just this by enhancing the visibility and vessel operations safer and more efficient. He also called for a cultural change in maritime business models to accommodate digitalisation; “If you think it’s not affecting your business, you’re completely wrong”.

Wärtsilä’s Strandberg also celebrated the fact that automatisation will not only benefit the business, but also the people by making it more safe and secure. The bottom line is that the new technologies need to be better than status quo – the standard and bar need to be set high. When it comes to change and adopting the new ways of working, he says, it is now time to come out of holes and see what every one else – particularly in the car industry – are doing.

His colourful presentation was followed by Viking Line’s Gustaf Eklund, who continued on the same innovative field by introducing the company’s newbuilds, which will use rotor sails, are powered by LNG, and equipped with interactive solutions which will enhance the user experience (or UX as the cool kids say) to the maximum. They are working together with Digitalist Group to map and develop ways to serve their smartphone-fitted guests even better.

Rolls-Royce’s Sauli Eloranta and Iiro Lindeberg gave a quick overview on the technology which Rolls-Royce Marine is developing (mostly and un-surprisingly on automatisation). Most interestingly they introduced the “One Sea Ecosystem”, which brings together actors from research and universities, authorities and funding, industries and maritime networks with an aim to “lead the way towards an operating autonomous maritime ecosystem in the Baltic Sea by 2025.” This network will without a doubt be a key player in the marine and maritime ecosystem over the coming years.

The children in the village

After the break the Conference presented the very first ‘Pike Tank’ in the spirit of the original ‘Shark Tank’. Six start-ups had few minutes to present their winning ideas and to convince the tough judges and audience on their value for business. The winners, ICEYE as chosen by the judges and Conexbird by the audience, represented very different approaches – one literally high-tech rocket science, the other ‘as simple as that’, widely applicable censor-based technology. However, both if properly tended, have the potential to become efficiency increasing business-as-usual-solutions in the industry.

Raising the child

ECOPRODIGI’s main objective – to bring eco-efficiency to maritime industry processes in the Baltic Sea Region through digitalisation could have not been more relevant in the conference. Even though the discussion concentrated heavily on autonomous shipping, the overall spirit of bringing innovations to the forefront and developing disruptive digital solutions overlapped the keynote speeches. The minister of Transport and Communication, Anne Berner remarked that digitalisation meant not only technological change, but also change in a way people behave. This is at the core of ECOPRODIGI as well; one of the key stones of the project is to invest in the education and training of current crew and staff, and also in designing the future road map to make sure that the needed behavioural change is implemented on a solid ground. People are more likely to adapt to, and also adopt new ways of working when they understand the reason and intention underneath. Considering how many key note speakers stated that maritime industry is not only outdated, but also conservative and reluctant to change, adequate training and education is particularly important.

We at ECOPRODIGI look forward to the development of the disruptive innovations introduced in the event, but also to the winds of change which will undoubtedly turn the tide in maritime business.

Author Milla Harju

Milla Harju, ECOPRODIGI Project Manager Milla comes from a professional background in IT and communications, and she dedicated her Masters studies at the University of Edinburgh to sustainable development and marine issues particularly in the Baltic Sea.

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