Intelligent shipping, which involves the use of informationization
and digital technologies, could well be the silver lining for the global
shipping industry to stave off an industrial recession and the ideal
conduit for China to become a global maritime power, said experts.
After reaching a peak in 2008, the global shipping market has been
facing a torrid time due to the sluggish economic fundamentals. New
regulations have made it mandatory for the shipping industry to reduce
its carbon footprint, leading to steps like the 2020 sulfur cap, water
ballast regulations and carbon emission reduction rules, said Martin
Stopford, nonexecutive president of Clarkson Research.
New technology is now the buzzword in the shipping sector as
companies are exploring the possibilities of using digital tech for ship
"The existing challenges confronted by the shipping industry like the
sluggish market and shortage of crew are largely due to high global
logistics costs. Science and technology helps companies to use
intelligent shipping, especially for unmanned ship freight," said Zhang
Baochen, chairman of the academic committee at China Waterborne
Transport Research Institute under the Ministry of Transport.
Zhang said the shipping industry is labor intensive and therefore
crew reduction is seen as a viable solution to reduce costs and increase
Intelligent shipping, the highlight of the 20th Marintec China
conference that ended on Friday in Shanghai, is a new shipping system
created through the integration of traditional shipping and
state-of-the-art technologies. Specifically, it includes five elements:
intelligent ships, intelligent navigation support, intelligent ports,
intelligent shipping services and intelligent shipping supervision.
Experts attending the event said autonomous maritime technologies
will not only reduce operational costs, but also ensure shipping safety
with fewer human errors and also avoid the exposure of people to
In addition, unmanned autonomous tech enables disruptive operational
scenarios, and can help further optimize the complete logistics chain.
To date, international organizations as well as major maritime
nations and regions including the UK, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands,
Japan and South Korea have announced their plans for intelligent
shipping. At the same time, technology is also developing rapidly across
In China, COSCO Shipping Group started commercialization of the
world's first large smart container ship recently, said Sun Jiakang,
director of the board at China COSCO Shipping Co Ltd.
A guideline to further develop intelligent shipping as a new business
model was jointly released by seven government agencies including the
Ministry of Transport and the National Development and Reform
Commission, has stressed the deeper integration of advanced technologies
with the shipping industry in late November, Xinhuanet reported.
According to the guideline, China aims to become a global shipping
development and innovation center based on breakthroughs made in several
key technologies by 2025.
By 2035, the shipping industry will see new business models featuring
sufficient intelligence and a high-quality intelligent shipping system
will be built by 2050.
"The next 15 years will be crucial for the development of intelligent shipping technologies," said Zhang.
Intelligent shipping offers an opportunity for China to grow from a large shipping nation into a shipping power, he said.