Book Review Maritime Informatics Approach to Leveraging Digitalization

book review

Published Dec 14, 2020 11:19 AM by The Maritime Executive

The shipping industry faces new challenges as it prepares for the future of global trade. While carriers have consolidated their operations and advanced their global capabilities, they are still working to develop the tools to truly leverage those opportunities to expand and increase the efficiency of the shipping industry. 

To achieve the next big step forward in shipping’s operations many are looking to emerging technologies. Multiple forces are helping to accelerate the adoption of digitalization and exploring how it can be further leveraged with everything from the application of Blockchain technologies to the integration of artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things. While these new technologies hold vast potential, there are equally great challenges to integrating them into the operations to realize the benefits from data sharing and analytics. 

Foreseeing the potential, professors Mikael Lind (Research Institutes of Sweden), Michalis Michaelidies (Cyprus University of Technology), and Richard Watson (University of Georgia), along with Robert Ward (Secretary-General Emeritus of the International Hydrographic Organization) recognized the need for a structure to leverage the value of the data. Through their work with the shipping industry and the European Union to improve safety, efficiency, and the sustainability of shipping, they conceptualized a scientific approach to the coming digital transformation of shipping.

The result is a new applied science known as “maritime informatics,” which explores the opportunities for data sharing and analytics in the maritime industry. This emerging field of study unities researchers and academia with the practical experiences of shipping executives contributing to harnessing the potential of digital technologies.

Informatics is the study of the structure, behavior, and interactions, providing a structure to study the representation, processing, and communication of information in natural and engineered systems. Applying these concepts for the study of computational systems, the new book “Maritime Informatics,” co-edited by Lind, Michalis, Watson and Ward, examines the utilization of digitalization and the capabilities it provides to improve the quality of maritime decision making and operating efficiency. 

One of the unplanned benefits of the events of 2020 has been an acceleration of the move to digitalization. The resilience of the shipping industry was demonstrated in 2020 in its ability to manage the challenges of maintaining a smooth flow of goods and vital materials during everything from a trade war to a pandemic. Ports and terminal operators were among the organizations leading the push to adopt digital technologies.

However, as shipping moves forward with its efforts to break down the barriers there are numerous challenges. Historically, each shipping company kept track of the content of its cargo and its destinations, while ports developed their unique processes for the movement of cargo, resulting in numerous disjointed processes. Information was replicated, required numerous transfers, often by a handling of paper or fax, resulting in inefficiencies and waste that are hindering global trade.

Digital technologies provide the industry with an opportunity to break down some of the age-old hurdles and facilitate more efficient and environmentally sound global trade, but to achieve this and realize the benefits also requires the tools and thought processes to use the information that is becoming available. According to a broad range of academics, researchers, and industry professionals that have contributed to the new book, maritime informatics can help to ensure that these future changes are effective, successful, and beneficial.

In 23 chapters, the book explores the origins of the concepts of maritime informatics as well as the changing organization and future of the shipping industry. It draws insights from a total of 46 individuals active in the industry or government as well as 34 from universities or research institutions.

Developing the thought process and editing the presentation are four distinguished individuals who in their respective careers have each been at the forefront of the discussion. Mikael Lind, who has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the Port Collaborative Decision Making (PortCDM) concept and serves as an expert for World Economic Forum, Europe’s Digital Transport Logistic Forum (DTLF), and UN/CEFACT, is a thought leader in maritime informatics.  He has been joined by Michalis Michaelides, who is a professor of informatics and has been a principal investigator in many research projects, and Richard Watson, who is a professor in management information systems. He has been involved in establishing and applying maritime informatics to the European shipping industry and has worked extensively for more than a decade with CIOs to support their strategic needs. Robert Ward during his career played an influential role in the development and implementation of global digital data exchange standards for nautical charting services.

The presentation provides a framework for discussion while looking at the necessity of standards and the need for coordination and cooperation. The focus is on the process of communicating data. It also explores the interactions with ports, the global supply chain, and the need for and benefits of increased collaboration across all sectors via digital data sharing as well as the opportunities inherent by connecting cities and ports.

The book’s first objective is to promote standardized digital data sharing to achieve high levels of coordination and efficient and sustainable resource utilization. The analysis, they believe, will lead toward the ultimate goal of data sharing to develop new types of shipping analytics

The application of maritime informatics has the potential to advance operational performance and strategic planning to improve capital productivity in the shipping industry and meet the challenges of operating in a sustainable maritime environment. Through the application of these approaches, the goal is to provide the critical structure for enabling innovation and efficiency in the global supply chain.

For more information or to purchase the book Maritime Informatics, please visit: https://maritimeinformatics.org

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.