Internet of Things ~ IoT in the Shipping Industry


The logistics providers that move objects by air, sea, rail, and ground have widely distributed networks and rely on rapid information about those networks to make decisions. As a result, they were quick to see the benefits of new sensor and connection technology, placing them at the forefront of the transition to a connected world.

Companies in this sector have embraced the suite of data-driven technologies dubbed the Internet of Things (IoT) in diverse settings, from maritime and aviation freight to warehousing to package delivery. Specific applications include the real-time tracking of shipments, warehouse-capacity optimization, predictive asset maintenance, route optimization, improved last-mile delivery, and more.

In fact, many logistics providers (companies that package, transport, and store goods) have seen logistics users (companies with goods that need to be moved) adopt their innovations within their own supply chains. But there’s much more to come. As IoT applications and capabilities expand, so do opportunities for T&L providers.

(Image Courtesy: Wilhelmsen)

Through a rapidly increasing number of connected devices, embedded sensors, and analytics technologies, companies in the sector can enjoy unprecedented visibility into almost every aspect of their business, from operations to finance, enabling new sources of value creation. This visibility, in turn, will allow T&L providers to more intelligently exploit their rich and complex data asset base, leading to more efficient use of transport infrastructure, better engagement with customers, and more informed decision making.

Of course, T&L companies aiming to further incorporate IoT technology face real challenges, both technical and strategic. To find their place in the IoT domain, we believe organizations first need to envision, broadly, what business problems IoT applications might solve for them and their customers. This endstate vision should also address the IoT’s implications for these companies’ strategic position and ecosystem relationships.

Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance of any mechanical equipment is necessary and critical for its longevity. It does not matter if it’s a small machine or a large structure, efficient maintenance would prolong its life. It becomes even more important on a ship to keep machinery up to date and smoothen the running conditions. In the olden days, there were a large number of crew members and engineers on a ship.

The maintenance as result was carried out quickly and easily. But that has changed now as the number of crew members and engineers have reduced drastically, with many ships carrying as little as 3-4 engineers on board. Even the time required to carry out the maintenance has been reduced. IoT solutions for the shipping industry are aiming to help the engineers and crew members in maintenance of the ship, whether it is off-shore or when the ship is docked.

Although not all of the above mentioned procedures can be carried out by IoT solutions for shipping industry, most can be handled by them. Remotely controlled flying and grounded IoT devices can be used to carry out surveys of the ship. They can also be used to replace damaged parts and carry goods from one part of the ship to another part for maintenance by an engineer. Another use of IoT solutions is in the shipping yards. The management of cargo to be transported can easily be done with the help of IoT devices. They can be used to check and maintain the inventory while they are uploaded and keep track of all vehicles and personnel present in the yard. They can also be used for security checks and for spotting suspicious activities.

(Image Courtesy: Martek Marine)


This type of the maintenance is carried out when the machinery breaks down. It becomes hazardous for an engineer and crew members to carry out this kind of maintenance manually as during breakdown, other parts could get damaged and put the whole ship under risk. The risk in this method can be reduced by using IoT devices to scan the area of breakdown. Risk can also be reduced by identifying hazardous areas around the damaged part so that it can be replaced in a way that causes little or no threat to the well-being of engineers and crew members. For example, drones can be used to identify leaks in an oil tanker and could also be used to weld back the leak.


The machine parts are checked regularly in this type of system. The condition of the machinery can be checked regularly with the help of sensors and other IoT devices. It is applicable to critical systems that incorporate active redundancy and fault reporting. This kind of system already uses a lot of sensors and other reporting devices. IoT technology providers are developing what we may call an overall brain for these systems, which would connect all these devices and hence form an internal map of the ship. This kind of map could then help to analyze the generated IoT data in real-time to predict fault areas in the ship quickly and probably prevent a small error from becoming a tragedy. Although the use of IoT could be a lot of help on ships, it will still require experience and knowledge as a wrong interpretation of any condition may further damage the machinery and lead to costly repairs which may be unacceptable to the company.

Deploying and expanding IoT capabilities requires more than just technological breakthroughs—making a system work requires not only an understanding of the industry dynamics but also a strategic approach to the Information Value Loop. Thus far, T&L companies have implemented IoT technologies mostly as track-and-trace applications, intending to decrease network complexity. For example, GPS asset tagging can be used to optimize routes by plotting the real-time locations of trucks and deliveries and using analytics to draw the shortest or most fuel-efficient route between them.

Similarly, GPS tagging of shipping containers and other demand-side goods can help manage the flow of those goods through transit nodes. Together, these applications allow for faster movement through the network with fewer transitions. New applications retain a focus on networks but also aim to make better use of the information captured to create new value and even new revenue. As yet, few companies and IoT applications have moved toward fully capturing the technology’s value-creation potential.

(References: Deloitte, Allerin)

Sea News Feature, July 9

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra