Bringing people to the power of electric, digital and connected
Together, people and new technology deliver global shipping’s future
The people in ABB’s global service network are coming to play a critical role in the digital transformation of the maritime industry, solving or anticipating issues at sea using shore-based expertise, and therefore helping shipping deliver on safety, efficiency and sustainability from afar.
As a service organization employing over 800 persons in over 25 countries, ABB Marine & Ports certainly sees people as central to the maritime industry’s electric, digital and connected transformation. Instead of replacing seafaring personnel, we envisage our service organisation supporting a shift in maritime skill sets, as those at sea adapt to working with the data analytics and decision-making software that go hand in hand with higher levels of automation.
Autonomous ships themselves, for example, are not conventional vessels without a crew; they are a novel type of ships with fewer but highly skilled crew members overseeing an increasing number of autonomous functions and operations on board, supported by pioneering technology and by expert personnel working at shore side operation centers.
ABB Marine & Ports has already done a considerable amount of work in this direction, developing a network of ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Centers worldwide – seven focused on maritime operations and two more on ports providing a true 24/7 network in place to support today’s and tomorrow’s customers. By 2020, we expect 3,000 ships will be connected in real time to our collaborative centers. With the same data and digital tools available to all centers, ABB’s services achieve seamless communications to ships worldwide, whether the shore-based engineer is located in Europe, Asia or the USA, depending on the time of day.
In the electric, digital and connected era, ABB Marine & Ports remains a team of solution providers helping customers to manage vessels throughout their whole lifecycle, taking care of our customers’ new vessels and ensuring that older vessels get future-proof solutions to extend their lifetime.
Over time, we expect that more jobs will be created at or relocated to shore-based centers to support autonomous shipping methods; some of the roles envisaged will take over routine ship operations. However, it is important not to get carried away. A two year study recently published by the World Maritime University suggested automation was unlikely to lead to wide scale seafarer job losses over the next 20 years, and that ‘despite high levels of automation, qualified human resources with the right skill sets will still be needed in the foreseeable future’.
Ships built today could, for example, have a future lasting 30 years or more ahead of them emphasizing that, as automation advances, tomorrow’s seafarers will certainly have opportunities to experience the operational efficiency, connectivity and reporting gains available. For the foreseeable future, then, it will be through communication and collaboration between human beings at sea and those ashore that the true electric, digital and connected transformation will take place, in the process delivering safer, more efficient and sustainable shipping.