Sea/ spoke with Sam Chambers, editorial director at maritime and shipping news publication Splash 24/7, about the adoption of digital transformation within the maritime industry and the impact of Covid-19 on the pace of change.
You’ve written about the maritime industry for the past 15 years. How has the adoption of digital transformation changed over that period?
The shipping industry is steeped in history and tradition. Until recently, it has been slow to adopt new solutions with the capability to improve workflow, communication and legal documentation. In my opinion, digital transformation is not necessarily about huge technology breakthroughs but about changing the mindset of the industry.
Do you see any evidence that the workplace disruption of 2020 has impacted the industry from a technological standpoint?
Interestingly, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, within the space of three months, the industry’s digital mindset has made strides that would usually take around two and a half years! And, unlike the sceptics may have feared, technology hasn’t rocked the boat. It has simply altered and improved processes. Take training. The moment coronavirus took grasp, the training of seafarers as we knew it came to a standstill. Instead virtual training became the norm and has proven a huge success amongst the next generation of seafarers.
When traditional workplaces re-open, do you think the industry will maintain the same momentum in adoption of digital tools as it has so far this year?
I hope so. The ripples of Covid-19 will continue for many months and I see digital transformation as a sink or swim scenario. Those who are willing to take the jump are rewarded far greater than those who remain cautious.
As an industry veteran, what excites you most about digital transformation?
The funny thing is that I live and breathe digital transformation, yet I must confess, I’m not the most tech-savvy individual! Regardless of that, I’m extremely excited about the potential that increased transparency can bring to the maritime industry.
Shipping has always been a very opaque business however, thanks to the influx of digital solutions, professionals have everything they need at their fingertips to make informed commercial decisions. Take for example charterers, they can plan their route to the finest detail. Using live information, they can track the progress and see exactly what’s going on with assets and cargo at any moment in any location.
Transparency is certainly making my life easier. It provides greater visibility of the trading fleet, making the industry more collaborative.