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Exclusive: Maritime logistics industry unloading middlemen, as new tech takes hold

Your cargo and business via ships are sailing new winds of change as AI, IoT and blockchain steer the industry into a new direction

Companies in the logistics sector integrated automation and AI both internally and with customer projects The Maritime industry has adopted IoT solutions more than any other sector The UAE could save over $3 billion by transitioning to blockchain technologies

Your cargo and business via ships are sailing new winds of change as AI, IoT and blockchain steer the industry into a new direction that will surely lose some traditional market intermediaries and gain talents in data science and burgeoning tech.

No more fluff, just the good techie stuff.  

Future of logistics is here

Yassim Elfassi, Chief Information Officer at Tristar Group writes to AMEinfo that the logistics industry is evolving rapidly at an unprecedented pace, and customer interests are increasingly shifting towards advanced digital services.   

“Over the last few years, we have witnessed companies in the logistics sector integrate automation and AI technologies both internally within their business models and externally with customer projects,” Elfassi starts.  

He adds that robotic process automation, remote vehicle management, and other artificial intelligence solutions will help with predictive maintenance and forecasting analysis and names blockchain as providing real-time oversight of warehousing and distribution processes.

But there is more.

Smart ship technology

“Smart Ship Technology integrates and analyses data to help improve the operational efficiency of various types of vessels in a safe and cost-effective manner,” according to Alfassi. 

It also improves performance by carrying out predictive maintenance. 

Smart warning and navigation systems also assist the skipper while the vessel is underway and can also take over certain tasks.  Knowing that every year hundreds of accidents occur on waterways, smart Shipping can reduce the chance of accidents due to human error.

With Smart Shipping technologies, ships can save fuel and money when the system can coordinate the navigation plan with the opening and closing times of locks and bridges, and available mooring space in harbors and port terminals. Using more precise environmental data (depth, current, and wind) a vessel can adapt its speed so that it uses less fuel.

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Internet of Things (IoT) and Robot Process Automation

Elfassi says that IoT in the logistics industry gains real-time visibility into both regional and global operations. It also provides valuable insights into making technical improvements including supply chain management. 

“Both IoT and Robot Process Automation allows specific sensors to be used to collect data and provide statistics on water and energy consumption and alternative ways to decrease them,” Elfassi explains.

 IoT devices can be attached to almost anything. As 5G technology evolves and spreads, tiny IoT chips embedded in products will enable businesses to track and monitor shipments of pharmaceuticals, high-tech goods, consumer products, industrial machinery, and garments.

That data can be encrypted and shared through the blockchain so that customers and suppliers have a real-time record of the transaction. 

Robotic process automation, or RPA, is the artificial intelligence used to allow software to handle many of the steps involved in a shipping transaction by understanding and manipulating data, triggering responses, and interacting with other digital systems.

According to an Inmarsat Report, the Maritime industry has adopted IoT solutions more than any other sector with IoT-based solutions expected to achieve around 14% cost-savings over the next 5-7 years.

The integration of Radio-frequency Identification commonly referred to as RFID with IoT technology is being seen as one of the biggest impacts of IoT in Supply Chain Management, helping the industry combat counterfeit goods, enforce expiration on perishable goods, and detect the various factors that may impact the quality of the product while in the delivery process.

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Blockchain will make the transaction verification process more efficient and allows goods and services to be delivered at a much faster pace, according to Elfassi. 

“Aside from the cost-saving benefits, incorporating blockchain can have a positive impact on the environment and help reduce a company’s carbon footprint, as transactions can be digitalized, hence requiring less paperwork,” Elfassi says. 

According to the latest Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR UAE) report, the UAE could save over $3 billion by transitioning to blockchain technologies.  

In a world of increasingly complex supply chains, paperwork piles up. Just one shipment may generate a stack of about 200 communications documents, and the cost of processing and administering this documentation is estimated to make up one-fifth of the cost of transporting goodsBlockchain could be a game-changer, ripping up this paper process and offering substantial efficiency savings.

Blockchain could would shrink insurance premiums, financing costs, and transit times, and eliminate supply chain intermediaries.

Data science

Thanks to data science, we are in the midst of seismic change in the supply chain. Tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing enable us to analyze and use that data in powerful new ways.

Data becomes about managing the future, not the present.

Large, well-resourced supply chain players will be able to take advantage of these technologies and other advances that involve harnessing data and will look to hire data scientists as the technology evolves.

UAE moves in maritime tech

Abu Dhabi’s maritime industry is to undergo a massive digital makeover using blockchain technology, signing an MoU with DNV GL, the world’s largest consultancy of independent maritime and energy experts, to create such a transformation.

In April this year, Abu Dhabi Ports announced that it will develop the world’s first fully unmanned autonomous commercial marine tugboats, allowing greater capability including the ability to operate in complex weather conditions. The vessels will be controlled by an onshore team, thereby enhancing operational safety. 

Two years earlier, Maqta Gateway, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Ports, announced the launch of their blockchain, Silsal

Silsal reduces friction by speeding up information exchange, providing access to transaction status updates, and reducing the need for paperwork, phone calls, and in-person visits.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) also then partnered with the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) in an initiative called the ‘Digital Silk Road project’ aiming to “increase the transparency of supply chains through digital transformation and comprehensive process automation”.