Cloud computing is a model for enabling network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources. The technology has been adopted by many industries as a logistics and analytical tool. The shipping and maritime industry is also using the platform to connect with designated servers across the globe.
Cloud computing has been creating many opportunities and value-enhancing capabilities in the shipping industry. Initially, the maritime sector was reluctant to its use. However, in the past few years, there has been significant growth in the use of cloud-based technology, which is expected to grow further in the foreseeable future.
The sector today is utilizing cloud-computing to securely save its data. This data is proving crucial in effectively analyzing and addressing the prevailing market and operational risks, thereby assisting the stakeholders to a great extent. For instance, a cloud-based management fuel system was employed by United Arab Shipping Co. that allowed the company to save 3-5 percent on the company bunker fuel cost. The fuel requirement of 70-vessel fleet was met at lower costs simply by using factors like real-time pricing data, ship location, and other parallel information.
The other usage of cloud-based technology in the marine sector is monitoring the progression of any shipbuilding project. The designers, project associates, and owners can keep an eye on the ship construction from a single drawing of the ship, saved in the cloud. This would make communication and exchange of ideas easier and all the team members will be in sync and updated in one go. The idea becomes more feasible and interesting because a single drawing of a ship would be of some gigabytes and the cloud has sufficient space to manage thousands of similar drawings and blueprints.
Further, as the shipping sector is moving towards automation at a very rapid pace, a cloud-based management system is going to be a significant asset even at the operational level. Apart from monitoring the shipbuilding projects, cloud computing is also being put in autonomous ships. The autonomous ships will not be merely vessels but data centers transmitting an enormous amount of data from various sources like Automatic identification system, radar, and other such onboard systems. With such an enormous data flowing at high velocity, the cloud becomes a necessary part for its management and analysis.
Some advantages of using cloud computing are: lower prices of hardware and software, access to software and data from any computer onboard ship having an internet connection, lower costs of maintenance of hardware and software, possibility of rendering services to all company ships, possibility of continuous monitoring of maritime, and all information and documents at one location.
Cloud computing has been gaining on importance in business processes but there are also few disadvantages of this platform such as: The (non)availability of services (satellite connection), security and confidentiality of data, intellectual property, reliability, data integrity, dependence on a single software support provider, and the lack of standardized interfaces that allow for the transfer of data and services from one cloud to another.
Amazon announced that it will be offering its cloud services to shipbuilding companies to gear up the process of ship construction along with extending its Amazon web service (AWS) to enhance after-market services and assist in development and management of autonomous vehicles. Samsung Heavy Industries is planning to employ AWS services like machine learning, augmented reality, cloud computing, analytics and more to develop self-piloting container ships, gas carriers and floating production systems.
The data from the ships will be transmitted to the AWS cloud via a combination of cellular networks and satellite communication. Rolls Royce too partnered with Google to use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to train AI-based object classification system. Rolls-Royce’s software is able to detect, identify and track surface objects.
The year 2018 was significant for shipping industry as maritime heralded towards the fourth industrial revolution. The collection of data through digitalization has become the most significant aspect of this revolution accompanied by breakthroughs in communication technology that today connect vessel operations to global networking. In such an environment cloud computing is becoming the backbone and many important steps have been taken to employ the cloud-based management system to further aid the next generation technological revolution.
Cloud computing can streamline operations pertaining to traffic, port entry, weather, or safety. In a manual setting, the vessels do have systems on board but there is lack of homogeneity among them. The manual process is time consuming and the likelihood of human error is high. In an industry that deals with varying climatic conditions on a daily basis, real time information regarding weather conditions and such other data could save many dollars and lives.
With shipping sector ready adopt digitalization, cloud-based technology offers worldwide accessibility and capability to work on a single platform, which can store huge amount of data. Maritime cloud computing not only connects vessels using disparate systems on a common platform, it also integrates maintenance teams, support teams, customers, and others enabling quick decisions and prompt action. The technology is certain to play a crucial role in streamlining services in the maritime sector.
Sea News Feature, August 19