The COVID-19 pandemic can have a positive impact on digital transformation in the maritime industry.
That’s according to the panel of experts in our recent webinar, ‘Maritime Digitalisation – Unlocking Opportunities for the Shipping Industry’.
After the cornonavirus was discovered in Wuhan, it was China that was first forced to shutdown huge swathes of its economy.
Europe soon followed suit and businesses were left scrambling to adapt.
For many maritime industries, almost overnight, remote working became the ‘new normal’.
The cruise sector was badly affected as tourism collapsed globally.
Nevertheless, Bob den Ouden, Manager of Special Projects at MSC, says his organisation has tried to take things in its stride.
“The COVID-19 situation forces everyone to work from home remotely, so that has an aspect of working more in a digital way,” he explained to our guests.
“In our company it’s had a devastating effect on each level of our business, but we can also use this time to reassess our business processes and information flow.
“That’s not done on our own. We need collaboration across the board in an ecosystem in order to make the change. If we make the change well, we might be able to cover some of these losses from COVID-19.
“Digitalisation in our company is an opportunity that arises right now.
We definitely take this moment to re-examine our processes and collaborate in order to make a difference.
Even for organisations that are early adopters of new technology, the pandemic has focussed the minds of decision makers.
Simon George, Technical Solutions Director at Metro Shipping, believes some maritime businesses will now be forced to embrace innovation.
“We’ve been on the digital transformation journey for some time,” George said.
“COVID-19 has accelerated that change and intensified the roadmap if anything.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to enhance existing products and bring new solutions to market – particularly during the three month lockdown.
“Beneficial cargo owners want real-time data, they want KPI’s that will bring benefit and value.
“Things like advertised transit times from sea-freight carriers is obviously something that our colleagues at MarineTraffic provide and are able to produce. It’s powerful stuff.”
Stellios Stratidakis, Head of Data at MarineTraffic, agreed that now is the time to embrace technology as the global economy gets back on its feet.
“It’s a natural progression for digitalisation to accelerate,” he said.
“This was a time for MarineTraffic to come even closer to our customer base.
“It all boils down to two notable patterns, the voyage part and port call process.
“This is where the room for opportunities and efficiencies is there and can be accelerated by boosting digitalisation efforts…
When it comes to the voyage, we have real-time monitoring but we can also think of the advancements in technology in general such as observations from space.
Coronavirus has undoubtedly sped up digitalisation across a cross section of maritime industries, although it’s not the only driving force.
The European Union was already set to force the hand of many businesses with sweeping changes to VAT payments on low-value goods bought over the internet.
“We will no longer escape the tidal wave of change that e-commerce has had on supply chains everywhere else,” said Jaco Voorspruij, who is a Senior Manager of Transport & Logistics at GS1 Global.
“The EU had already issued a directive with an original implementation date of January 1, 2021.
“That has been postponed to the first of July 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“The legislation is quite simple. Every single piece of e-commerce has to have VAT paid on these items.
“In the past, there was an exemption up to 20 euros which will go away.
“The result of this means that the economic operators and also the member state authorises will have to deal with a 30 fold increase in some cases in the declarations they need to handle.
“Clearly those submissions can no longer be paper based and there will need to be a digitalised way of working.
“Everyone that moves e-commerce items will be affected by this.”