As the next big leap in mobile and wireless communications, 5G is expected to open up infinite possibilities in maritime communication.
Real-life applications include the introduction of smart drones for real-time monitoring, ship-shore communication for vessel traffic management and just-in-time operations. Furthermore, maritime 5G will also facilitate the adoption of autonomous vessels with low latency connectivity for remote operation and hasten the use of Internet-of-Things sensors during search-and-rescue for real-time communications and accurate positioning.
“Autonomous shipping and ocean digitalisation drive the needs of maritime communication. Though currently in its experimental and commercialisation stages, maritime 5G will play an important role for the remote control of autonomous ships in the future,” said Kun Yang, founder, Super Radio AS.
Yang is the board chairman and project administrator of “LTE, WIFI and 5G Massive MIMO Communications in Maritime Propagation Environments” (MAMIME), the world’s first maritime 5G communication project that is funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
The project aims to develop optimised LTE and WIFI systems, and research dedicated to 5G solutions for the maritime applications. In addition, Super Radio AS is the Pre-5G test solution provider for the small-version Yara-birkeland autonomous ship, which is regarded as the world’s first fully electric and autonomous container ship.
Autonomous shipping will be one of three main topics in the upcoming Asia Pacific Maritime (APM) conference scheduled from March 18 to March 20, 2020. Returning for its 16th edition, the conference will gather 50 industry top minds for a three-day, in-depth discussion on what the maritime industry could look like in 10 years.
Aside from maritime 5G, key solutions making waves across the industry, such as digitalisation standards and remote pilotage will be examined.
Yang will be spearheading the session on “Understanding 5G Connectivity and What is Means for Maritime Communications”, where industry experts will examine and discuss the latest developments and potential benefits of 5G for the maritime industry.
Digitalisation is reshaping the shipping industry
The digital evolution is shaping the maritime future in multiple aspects – both onshore and offshore – and shipping organisations are facing pressure to operate more efficiently and profitably while catering to the increasingly sophisticated customer demands.
As with any change, digitalisation was initially met with scepticism. But this has given way to a building digital momentum, in view of the many strategic business benefits to be reaped – from operational efficiency improvements and cost reductions, to environmental performance enhancements.
“Shipping carries around 90% of world trade, making it the blood life of the global economy. Amid challenges posed by shifts in economic activity and tightening regulations, the maritime industry continues to seek means to answer the imperative call to digitalisation,” said Yeow Hui Leng, group project director of APM. “In the face of a changing landscape, APM 2020 will present an opportunity for delegates to glean important insights from industry leaders and explore partnerships to navigate for success.”
Digitalisation standardisation for greater collaboration
Meanwhile, even as automation and other technological innovations can benefit the industry by easing strenuous tasks and streamlining workflow, lack of standardisation remains one hurdle to industry-wide digitalisation.
Improving efficiency in a digitalised maritime industry is one of the main movements that APM 2020 conference will deliberate at the panel session titled “Enabling Digitalisation through Standardisation & Collaboration”.
Standardisation is key to improving data flow and enhancing interoperability and synergy.
“Digitalisation presents many opportunities and advantages for industry players, but it can only reach its full potential when data flows are seamless,” said Kenneth Lim, chief technology officer, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).
He added that MPA has embarked on initiatives such as the ‘digitalOCEANS’ concept to foster Open or Common Exchange And Network Standardisation and allow digital platforms of port authorities, supply chain companies, terminal operators, marine services companies, and ships to interoperate.
Morten Lind-Olsen, CEO, Dualog agreed that there is a growing focus on utilisation of consolidated data for both business and compliance purposes.
“Data needs to be standardised when generated for more efficient collection, processing and analysis, to deliver the value of timely decision- making. This focus is increasing day by day and certainly requires more digitally integrated ships,” Lind-Olsen said. “The shipping industry has the advantage and tradition of trading within global established regulations and legislations.”
Remote Pilotage: Going beyond the experimental phase
Furthermore in the technology front, unmanned vessels have also been top of mind for shippers. These game-changers could mean that ships can spend much more time at sea than human-controlled ones. Such innovation enables increased productivity, reduces reliance on human resources and is less prone to human error.
Sanna Sonninen, pilotage director of Finnpilot Pilotage, said: “Technology and solutions for commercially viable concepts of autonomous ships and remote control of ship operations have been developed and tested by various organisations. Though these are excellent showcases, public sentiment on the autonomous shipping development, the various levels of autonomy or remote operation is often mixed.”
She pointed out that when trying to find feasible solutions for remote pilotage, it is important to understand the difference between an autonomous ship, remote operated ship and remote piloted ship.
“To understand how the complex task of piloting a ship could be successfully accomplished without the pilot being physically onboard and operating as a part of bridge team, one must analyse the different functions of pilotage. Such issues must be solved and analysed before these remote pilotage experiments become a reality,” she said.
Sonninen will be delivering a presentation on “Developing a Comprehensive Remote and Autonomous Pilotage System” during the conference.
Amid a flurry of discussion on various technological innovations, the APM 2020 exhibition and conference will facilitate connections with decision-makers and industry observers to sharpen understanding about global maritime trends and movements.
Held in conjunction with the conference is the APM exhibition, one of Asia’s largest marketplace showcasing a complete overview of the vessel sectors. The biennial trade exhibition is expected to host over 1,500 international exhibitors and 15,000 visitors, across six halls spread over two levels.