Innovations within shipping and logistics industry – By Steve Felder

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Steve Felder, MD Maersk South Asia (Image Courtesy: Maersk Line)

The shipping and logistics industry has witnessed remarkable change, driven by evolving customer expectations and digital transformation – ranging from the invention of shipping containers in the 1950’sto using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics to ensure a safe and efficient global supply chain. Traditionally, maritime trade and logistics has been a brick and mortar industry, where running administrative paperwork costed a fifth of shifting goods (ref: World Economic Forum), thereby making the supply chain more expensive for exporters and importers. For example, according to the UN, if there is complete digitisation of trade paperwork, it could raise the exports from Asia-Pacific countries by $257 billion a year – a substantial gain for the exporters in the region.

While the adoption of digital technologies has picked up within the shipping and logistics industry, it is still in the early stages of digital transformation, where most of the players use technology to manage back-end operations. The use of new age technologies such as AI, data analytics and blockchain are starting to be pursued by larger players to attain higher efficiency, accountability and develop end-to-end solutions. However, the free flow of data and automation also brings risk such as data abuse and data crime that has posed as a challenge in the implementation of digital technologies across all sectors. So it has to be managed with watertight governance.

Exploring new opportunities with innovative and intelligent solutions works in tandem with understanding the needs of the customers. As the largest containerised trade provider, Maersk has implemented end-to-end supply chain solutions in the form of Remote Container Management (a system that allows customers to know the location and atmospheric condition of their refrigerated cargo) and the Maersk app (which provides ease of accessibility by providing real time shipping information to customers and help them manage shipments including tracking cargo).

In addition, we have also simplified the digital processes – customers can use the web platform of Maersk.com for instant booking and online payments to improve efficiency. For instance, with the launch of Self Service Instant Booking feature customers can instantly confirm and proceed with their bookings, in contrast to having to wait for hours to complete the processing. Through the SSIB feature, Maersk set a standard in the industry at large owing to innovative product. This feature gave impetus to diminish workloads and greater efficiency in terms of management of the supply chain. SSIB is available for long term and short term bookings and ensures complete transparency on pricing. Furthermore, customers have visibility and preference over the vessels employed and depots with empty containers they can opt to use, adding value to the service provided by us. Above all, there is assurance that the booking will not be cancelled at a later stage.

We are working with a number of our customers on Blockchain solutions, to simplify and secure their supply chains, and reduce the amount of paperwork, connect the various pieces of their supply chains through extended use of API’s and EDI’s and simplify the overall logistics process with a single window, solution driven approach TradeLens, a blockchain innovation developed jointly by Maersk and IBM has paved the way for paperless efficiencies in freight forwarding and trade finance. Currently, 94 organizations across the globe have incorporated this technology in their businesses. Some of the capabilities delivered on include arrival time of vessels and their gate-ins, commercial invoices and other such bills, as well as custom releases.

To support our global digital drive and confront our toughest operational and commercial challenges, we have established a digital arm in Bengaluru. With over 250+ employees at the centre, Maersk’s engineering journey is on the fast track. Developing and building on analytics, machine learning, and AI, this centre is propelling data engineering, automation of processes and product engineering.

OceanPro is an accelerator programme initiated by Maersk to enhance technological innovation through working with start-ups. OceanPro is a 120 day intensive programme which hopes to develop solutions with start-ups for improved customer engagement and ease management operations by leveraging AI, IoT, Blockchain and Advanced Text Analytics.

The digital transformation at Maersk is not only limited to serving the customer and commercial front; the operational performance of more than 700 container ships and 4 million containers are transformed into insights across a cloud computing platform.

Maersk Line has also teamed up with IBM to collaborate on a blockchain enabled platform – entitled TradeLens – designed to promote more efficient and secure global trade.

(Image Courtesy: Maersk Line)

While more than $4 trillion in goods are shipped each year, the ocean shipping industry transports more than 80 percent of the goods consumers use daily. Digitization will help to control trading and operational risks in one place, and improve business efficiencies for seamless global trade. In future, digital technologies will streamline not just the shipping industry but the overall supply chain like ships will inform ports what are in which container before docking for faster unloading of cargo to telematics systems in trucks will inform drivers when and where containers will be unloaded to reduce waiting times and bottlenecks in ports.

Sea News Feature, April 23