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Shipping tech tops agenda at annual Highway H2O conference


Toronto, ON — The shipping industry has not always been known for quickly adapting new technologies, but if the discussions at the annual Highway H2O conference are any indication, those days are over.

There are tremendous technological advancements on the horizon in the transportation industry, with autonomous vessels being developed and blockchain promising to streamline contracts. The impact of these technologies were top of mind during the conference.

On the topic of autonomous vessels, Neil Bennett of WärtsiläVoyage Solutions spoke about how intelligent vessels, as he referred to them, are now more connected to the shore as raw data is transformed into valuable insights.

“It’s about connecting the smart ship, fleet operating centre and smart port through innovative technology to enable more sustainable transportation,” he told the audience.

All the data gathered can be used for such things as:

  • Advanced route planning
  • Collision prevention
  • Autodocking
  • Remote and automated operations
  • Holistic energy and emission management
  • Fleet coordination

Bennett pointed to Enirm—marine spelled backwards—a company, acquired by Wärtsilä in 2016, that provides energy management technology to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, The Eniram Trim analysis is based on a unique model of a vessel’s hydrodynamic characteristics, the information gathered by attitude sensors installed on the vessel’s hull, and the vessel’s automation and bridge systems. The input gained enables the Eniram Trim to calculate the optimal trim in real time, which leads to lower fuel consumption and greater cost savings than is possible with conventional trimming methods.

Blockchain was another technology on the agenda. Bryan Addeman of IBM Canada gave those in attendance a brief overview as well as a use case IBM is involved in currently.

“Blockchain is a way to store information on such things as assets, transactions and permissions,” said Addeman. “It’s one shared, single source of truth, with a common set of rules by which data can be added or accessed.”

Blockchain also ensures that data cannot be tampered with or hacked.

Addeman then pointed to TradeLens, a blockchain platform created by IBM and shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, which aims to replace that paper trail with electronic scheduling, clearance and billing while tracing containers more precisely.

Recently, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Port of Montreal signed on for a trial run of the technology.

The federal customs agency and the country’s second-biggest port said they’re dipping their toes into a digital database that functions as a “distributed ledger,” sharing and syncing up data from ocean carriers, ports and wholesalers from Singapore to Peru.

Since TradeLens was launched in August, more than 90 organizations have come on board, including the ports of Halifax, Singapore and Rotterdam, the container carrier Pacific International Lines and customs authorities in Australia and the Netherlands.