New report probes Japan’s shipping digitalisation progress

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A new study, ‘A quiet revolution – the maritime innovation ecosystem in Japan’, explores the commitments to Internet of Things (IoT)-based ship and crew management already made by corporate Japan, then goes on to offer unique insights into the country’s emerging start-up culture.

The report, sponsored by Inmarsat, is the first in a series of in-depth profiles into maritime technology and start-ups in specific countries. It builds on ‘Trade 2.0: How start-ups are driving the next generation of maritime trade’, a global study launched by Inmarsat in 2019 during London International Shipping Week.

Both studies are the work of renowned maritime experts Nick Chubb (MNI*) and Leonardo Zangrando (MSc, MBA). Nick Chubb is a former seafarer and Founder and Director of Thetius Maritime Innovation Intelligence. Leonardo Zangrando is a Naval Architect and Founder and Managing Director of Startup Wharf Ltd, an Independent Global Hub of Startup-driven Maritime Transformation.

“We are delighted to be the key sponsor of this latest report,” said Ronald Spithout, President of Inmarsat Maritime. “It offers a perceptive insight into the status of Japan’s growing maritime digitalisation in 2020.”

Japan’s three largest global shipping carriers – K Line, Mitsui OSK Line and NYK Line – are users of Inmarsat Fleet Xpress services, Spithout points out. All three companies are also committed to ground-breaking data sharing projects to enable optimised vessel performance, manned autonomous ships and decarbonisation.

K Line has worked with Kawasaki Heavy Industries developing a ship performance optimisation platform to manage biofouling, optimise trim, and to reduce crew workload. MOL joined the National Maritime Research Institute and Furuno Electric Co. to develop augmented reality for navigation support for 21 VLCCs. While NYK has developed its onboard IoT platform with Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and NTT Data.

“Partnerships have been the bedrock for digitalisation in Japan. As the leading provider of high-speed maritime broadband connectivity via Fleet Xpress, we work closely with the large corporate enterprises pushing the technological envelope. However, this new report highlights other important relationships that are also shaping Japan’s digital future,” said Spithout, “including those outside of conventional networks, such as the E5 Lab on autonomous vessels, the Ship Data Centre and the Maritime Innovation Japan Corporation.”

Earlier this year, Inmarsat began working with Ship Data Center (ShipDC), set up by the classification society, ClassNK. ShipDC promotes the initiative “Internet of Ships Open Platform (IoS-OP)” to integrate operational data from multiple fleets. ONE uses the IoS-OP to share data with K Line, MOL and NYK respectively across the ONE container fleet, improving fleet performance benchmarking. Finnish data analysis specialist NAPA became the first solution provider to join the IoS-OP, offering ship and voyage optimisation services. NAPA is also a Certified Application Provider for the Fleet Xpress IoT platform for shipping Fleet Data.

“Now is an ideal moment for a report exploring the way Japanese maritime stakeholders are engaging in new partnerships, including with start-ups outside Japan,” added Spithout. Typical is NYK Line’s work with Transnational Diversified Group Maritime and start-up MarcoPay to enable electronic seafarer salary payments direct to phones. Spithout also cites work by start-up Sensetime with MOL on image-based collision avoidance and the creation of Symphony Creative Solutions by NYK Group, Weathernews, and Kozo Keikaku Engineering to help Singaporean start-ups engage with Japanese maritime interests.

“We have also seen the Japanese government attempting to grow the local start-up ecosystem through its J-Startup programmes, resulting in rising interest from local and international venture investors,” adds Spithout. “Japan’s maritime technology sector is worth $8.8 billion today and is projected as growing to $15.8billion in value by 2030*. Clearly, with innovation remaining the priority, Fleet Xpress connectivity, Fleet Connect and the Fleet Data IoT platform will be key enablers for corporates, their partners and start-ups alike.”