All aboard for innovation

By Dieter Berg, IUMI President

In today’s fast-changing business environment, a year can be a long time. While I stated in 2017 that the shipping and logistic industry was lagging behind other industries, now I am excited to see rapid technological developments and a lot of start-up companies focusing on digital innovation and disruptive technologies. These include solutions to leverage big data and boost efficiency in ports, on vessels and throughout supply chains.

Increasingly, the concept of the digitalised port is becoming reality, as smart sensors, radars and satellites will be implemented to monitor real-time vessel traffic as well as truck and container movements. Port operators using data analytics are working hard to predict arrival time of vessels and avoid waiting time at ports, while automated cranes and optimised infrastructure promise to vastly enhance efficiency on land. The combined result is reduced congestion of ships, trucks and containers, avoidance of unnecessary emissions and significant cost savings.

New technologies are also driving digitalisation on board ships. Utilisation of interconnected systems and big data is increasing, not only to coordinate vessel movements with port operations, but also to improve the overall efficiency and management of the ship. Navigational technologies such as short-range laser, audio and sonar screening are improving vessel safety and sensor technology will enable pre-emptive engine and equipment maintenance. Autonomous and remote-controlled ships can be expected to play a role in the near future, too.

Throughout supply chains, emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) enable seamless coordination of manufacturing, storage and logistics. Based on the capacity of AI to predict what will happen in supply chains tomorrow, transportation, shipping and warehousing will become more and more productive. IoT and sensor technologies make it possible to utilise micro-data generated by mobile devices and macro-data from satellites, vessels and aircraft to optimise cargo movements. These rapid advances will be further accelerated by the entrance of new industry players with digital capabilities like Amazon or Alibaba.

For the marine insurance industry, these developments open huge opportunities for new products and services. Beyond developing special covers for new exposures such as cyber risks or supply chain risks, we need to get the big picture and holistically address the needs of the increasingly digitalised shipping and logistics industry.

The new paradigm calls for insurers that can think outside the box and strengthen their service position. By working closely with customers, marine insurers can use digital technologies and data analytics to develop preventive risk management solutions and expand the borders of insurability. As supply chains become more efficient, secure and transparent, many traditional risks will diminish while new risks arise.

Now that shipping and logistics are catching up with other industries in the digitalisation race, it’s our task as marine insurers to make sure we are up to speed too.