Pretty soon, shipping entrepreneurs will be able to design ships with wisdom of the crowd
By Ryan Skinner (email)
[Picture from Jeff Howe's 2009 book, Crowdsourcing]
Two weeks ago, I brought a twist to the "10 technologies to change shipping" series, and asked a few discussion groups to take part in the selection process. All told, some 40-50 ideas came in - some for the entire group, some right in my in-box.
There were some great ideas, and I'll share them below. But the real upshot of the experiment was what can be achieved by the mass of ship technology talent and ideas found on many Internet forums. The distance from a group of knowledgeable industry pros answering a speculative "What technologies are hot?" to a real specification for a future ship could be pretty short.
Some might argue that this would make the ultimate bastard ship, a vessel with hundreds of fathers and no real identity. It's a real concern, but one that may fade away as things like greater standardization and common structural rules create a better platform for experimentation.
Online collaboration on futuristic ship designs is already a reality, to some degree. And the more open it gets, the better and more exciting it'll get, I argue. Then every determined entrepreneur can assemble his own shipping company from best-of-breed technologies and innovative commercial ideas.
Here are many of those suggestions to change shipping (hint: one of these will return for a special feature in the "10 technologies to change shipping" series, but I'm not saying which). And a big "Thank you!" to everyone who contributed. This piece is more yours than mine.
From Thomas Billeschou-Hansen of Marine Inert Gas Systems:
"I believe that air cushions under the hull will be a big step forward. See Stena AirMax, etc. The cushion will eliminate water resistance in the affected areas - some 75% of the hull bottom."
From Kristinn Aspelund of Marorka:
"What I've been working on most is energy management, assisting ship owners optimizing their fuel consumption with systematic approach and decision-support systems."
From Craig Carter of Thordon Bearings, Inc.:
"Prior to the 1950s, all ships used seawater-lubricated stern tube bearings. Are shipowners looking to return to seawater-lubricated non-metallic bearings? The cruise industry appears to have adapted this. Is mainstream commercial shipping ready to return to saltwater?"
From Roelof Kingma of Kingma Shiptrading:
"The shipping industry will benefit from a modal shift between trucks and ships. One of my ideas was to advertise in national newspapers about the environmental benefits of inland shipping, compared to transport by trucks. I believe it's possible to increase inland shipping markets significantly, using multiple environmental-friendly USPs."
From Vesa Marttinen of Wartsila:
"Whatever can cut down-times (and thus increase revenue) while cutting the operational costs are technologies of the future, like: continuous monitoring of wearing/moving parts, remote control (less obligations onboard), smart communications."
From Andre Stegmann of Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven:
"For me, the next big change will be foil technology instead of hull painting. This will reduce fuel consumption and repair costs. The second big change will be LNG for cruise and cargo ships."
From Robin Cornick of NURC:
"What about greater automation and remote control of unmanned shipping with offshore unloading terminals? I think it is a bit like unmanned aircraft. Everyone is fighting it, but they're slowly making inroads into manned airspace. We are already running a number of small, fast remote-controlled boats in busy harbours."
From John Konrad of Pride International and gCaptain:
"The next major move will be the googilization for the industry. I refer to Google's core business: Making access to large amounts of data fast and seamless. The big move after that will also mirror tech: communication. LinkedIn, twitter and facebook are not successful for the reasons that pundits talk about. They are successful because they promote fast and seamless communication between people of matching interests."
From Patrick Corsi of Eco-Power by Soltron:
"I promote a natural enzyme fuel treatment with applications directly related to the heavier fuels used in the shipping industry, and with growing environmental concern worldwide and especially in Europe."
From Vijaygopal Rengarajan of Translucent:
"I find the transition from reactive to predictive maintenance, i.e. condition-based monitority systems. In my opinion, marine engineers need a companion who can measure continuously and help them get to solutions rather than worrying about problem identification."
From Lee Peterson of Port of Long Beach:
"Wouldn't a globally-used clean alternative to today's bunker fuel be the one technology that could transform shipping?"
From Sven Lansberg of Consilium Marine:
"If the industry can find a feasible solution to the infrastructure and logistics regarding bunkers, I reckon LNG-driven ships in general and ferries and RoPax in particular will be the future."
From Tom Jarvis of San Diego Marine Exchange:
"There are new products that are being developed to treat the bilge water prior to discharge overboard so that it is as close as possible to the local waters' pH and chemical make-up. Clean Marine Systems has developed a "Fuel Spill Saver" that alerts you with a bright-red light and an alarm sounds when the optimum fuel level bas been reached."
From Don Dykstra of Back-Haul Shipping:
"For day-to-day operations, I have developed a most economic speed formula for any type of ship. It is based on speed/fuel consumption and daily operating cost/charter hire."
From Marius Popa of DNV Energy:
"COSCO's idea for nuclear-powered vessels could trigger the development of associated technologies and a huge change in the way of running a vessel, harbor, national security, etc. The opening of Arctic passages can be supported by Arctic technologies and could add new main shipping routes. The extensive production and utilization of liquefied gases, supported by the energetic needs and the new low-temperature technologies probably will compete with the transportation of oil in importance."
From William van Amstel of Yellow & Finch:
"You can see the trend going to energy efficient and durable construction. Main concern is the more and more strict regulation."
From Louis Dockx of Brutraco:
"Have we reached the maximum size of ships?"
Thanks to the Maritime Executive and Maritime Group LinkedIn groups for featuring this discussion! More crowd-sourced type projects sponsored by 59° 56' N will come soon!