During the SMM advance press conference, experts and top-flight industry representatives gave a preview of the topics that will be in focus at the leading international maritime trade fair in Hamburg from 4 to 7 September, according to a release from Hamburg Messe.
Top items on the agenda will be the digital revolution, eco-friendly propulsion technologies, new growth opportunities and the challenges associated with disruptive markets.
The event organisers claim that with more than 2,200 exhibitors from 66 countries, and approximately 50,000 industry visitors from over 120 nations, SMM is sure to prove its status as the leading international maritime trade fair.
"We want to offer real added value to enterprises of this sector – those who are represented at SMM with a stand of their own, and those who are sending their decision-makers to Hamburg to get informed about new trends in innovative technologies," said Bernd Aufderheide.
The President and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH welcomed several dozen top media representatives from around the world to the advance press conference in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie building. In his keynote, Aufderheide mentioned numerous new features which will make SMM more attractive than ever.
For example, this year's fair will for the first time cooperate with the TradeWinds Shipowners' Forum in a conference that will look into issues of paramount importance for the industry, such as financing. “The convenient clustering of exhibitor groups in the exhibition halls, or the theme routes successfully introduced during the last SMM, will make it much easier for visitors to find what they need,” Aufderheide added.
The panel of experts assembled for the advance press conference was itself a perfect example of how SMM covers the entire value chain of the maritime industry: Key stakeholder groups, including shipowners, ship builders, suppliers, a classification society, and consulting firms were all represented on the podium.
Disruptive markets where among the topics addressed by the well-known shipping expert Dr Martin Stopford. During the panel discussion, the non-executive President of the maritime consultancy Clarkson Research provided an overview of the current market situation. While some shipping segments have recovered, he said, the overall mood was subdued. “Over the past two years shipbuilders have faced increasing pressure.” The tonnage entering the market in 2018 is going to amount to less than half of that delivered in the boom year 2011. South Korea in particular is losing market share. Contrary to the general trend, orders for cruise ships doubled between 2015 and 2017, reaching a volume of USD19.5 billion. It was mainly the Europeans who profited from this boom, conquering a 34 per cent market share, something the world hadn’t seen in decades. “European shipyards should have a well-deserved party,” said Stopford.
Consistent with the motto of this year's SMM, “Trends in SMMart Shipping", Stopford believes digitalisation to be a key driver of increased efficiency within the sector. However, the expert cautioned, a stepwise approach is advisable: “It is better to do something simple that delivers for your business, rather than getting disappointed with attempting something too ambitious that fails,” he stressed. A “Smart Shipping Toolbox” could help build smarter ships, manage fleets smarter, and ensure logistics are really efficient, Stopford said. The goal would be an integrated transport service.
As Kjersti Kleven, Co-owner and Board Member of the Norwegian shipbuilding group Kleven Maritime AS and Chairwoman of SEA Europe, the Shipyards’ and Maritime Equipment Association, reported, shipbuilders are increasingly able to benefit from the enormous advances in the field of robotics. In the age of digitalisation, investments in research and development were of paramount importance for the industry, she said. As for 3D printing, the realisation of many ideas would still be a long way off, but the technology held a lot of promise and could give rise to new business models, Kleven added. Referring to 3-D printing, HMC CEO Aufderheide pointed out that SMM will include a special exhibition highlighting the potential uses of this technology.
The COO of Hapag-Lloyd, Antony Firmin, described what a shipowning company can do to overcome the current economic challenges. The sustained crisis had given rise to a rigorous consolidation process among line operators. Stricter environmental regulations would put extra pressure, Firmin said. Nevertheless his company does a lot to operate its ships in the most eco-friendly manner possible over their entire life-cycle and supports other environmental initiatives such as sustainable ship recycling. Just recently the company published its first ever sustainability report, Firmin added. In his opinion the IMO Emission Reporting System is "the only and the right way to get meaningful global data about CO2 emissions" and is preferable to the regional EU MRV Directive which only accounts for one fifth of global emissions. "The collection of commercially sensitive information must take place in an anonymized and confidential manner," said Firmin.
Referring to the fact that new regulations on CO2 emissions and ballast water management are actually likely to stimulate the business of shipbuilders and suppliers, the SEA Europe chairwoman simply stated: "We will build everything the market demands”. However, it would not always be easy for customers to identify the most suitable technology. Contributing the perspective of a major supplier, Wayne Jones, Member of the Executive Board – Global Sales & Aftersales at the engine manufacturer MAN Diesel & Turbo SE, called the recent decisions made by the International Maritime Organization IMO regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions "an enormous success", admitting that the goal was very ambitious. It is therefore very important for the entire industry to support this decision: “We have been promoting a maritime energy transition for years, and we are committed to driving a CO2-neutral global economy that includes shipping,” Jones emphasised. “We firmly believe that the switch to low emission gas fuels is the silver bullet to decarbonize international shipping,” he added.
Radiating confidence about the future of shipping, Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, Chairman of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) and CEO of DNV GL – Maritime, was sure that the “digital transformation will forever change the shipping industry and pave the way to new business models.” For example, he said, detailed, real-time cargo and route information as well as data relating to the operation and condition of the vessel and its components will make future supply chains much more adaptable and efficient. “The development and spread of cloud based technologies and computer power will change not only how we manage data but how we design, build and test vessels, their systems and components.”
Even today digital solutions are unfolding their economic potential in concrete ways: For instance, the classification society DNV GL uses drones equipped with cameras to inspect structural elements in ships, tanks or offshore installations; and since last October, customers have been able to manage ship certificates in electronic format. More than 100,000 certificates for about 8,000 ships have been issued by DNV GL to date. Apart from increasing the efficiency of operational processes, digitalisation will also improve safety on board. “The new level of decision support will give us better control over assets and systems, increase onboard situational awareness, and reduce human factor incidents and operational risk,” said Ørbeck-Nilssen. Kjersti Kleven agreed that major advances in this field lie ahead: Another innovation, the “digital twin” of a ship, provides ship owners and ship builders alike with an entirely new level of data transparency, allowing them to sell added value with their ships by optimizing operation or maintenance.
Reducing complexity, enhancing transparency: This is where MAN Diesel & Turbo’s Wayne Jones sees the key benefits of digitalisation. To aggregate all the different data collected separately in a variety of storage locations, a joint platform for the entire industry is under development. Jones emphasised the importance of protecting data privacy and security, announcing a major digital innovation developed by his company to be showcased at SMM in September 2018.
Cybersecurity is also the subject matter of a joint project undertaken by the classification societies organised in the IACS, Ørbeck-Nilssen reported. The organisation is also developing a common terminology for different levels of autonomous ship operation. “This is a highly interesting field which is developing fast,” shipyard owner Kleven added. The first autonomous ship will be contracted very soon, she said. However, many technical and legal questions must be answered before this technology can even be considered for large container ships, interjected Hapag-Lloyd’s Anthony Firmin.
While the situation in some market segments has improved, the survival of many shipyards and suppliers depends on niche markets such as the cruise ship segment, which has seen an unprecedented boom in Europe, as SEA Europe Chairwoman Kleven pointed out. She hopes the offshore segment will recover, as well. At the same time she stressed the importance of knowledge transfer into new and attractive fields such as marine research, deep-sea mining and the utilisation of Arctic resources.
In his closing remarks, HMC CEO Bernd Aufderheide promised that all these forward-looking topics were going to play a key role at SMM in September. In particular, the conferences focusing on digitalisation, environment, security and defence as well as deep sea mining and polar research would impart crucial knowledge the industry needs to tackle present and future challenges. "We want to deliver concrete answers to the industries most pressing questions, and are looking forward to welcoming exhibitors, industry visitors and conference participants from more than 100 countries when Hamburg once again becomes the epicentre of the maritime world for four days."