SMM Hamburg highlights digitisation of shipping

It’s a bright, sunny, September morning in Hamburg, and I’m zipping through the streets of the city on a bicycle I’ve rented for the week, using google maps to direct me towards Hamburg Messe where one of the world’s leading shipping trade events, SMM Hamburg, is taking place.

I am fortunate to travel regularly, and online mapping services such as google maps have become a useful tool when I’m in a foreign city. Mapping and tracking services are also becoming a vital tool to the shipping industry as we move into a digital era, that will see a constant stream of data between ships, ports, administrative bodies, service providers and ship owners.

Once inside the impressive venue that plays host to SMM every two years, it becomes apparent that digitisation has been chosen as one of the main topics for SMM 2016. “SMM is the first maritime trade fair globally to turn the spotlight on “Industry 4.0”. This theme harbours enormous potential for the shipping industry,” said Dr Alexander Nürnberg, Chairman of the Board of the Marine Equipment and Systems working group at the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA), and Managing Director of MacGregor Hatlapa.

Not only was digitisation a central theme of many of the seminars that took place during the week, it was also a big part of the trade show, where many exhibitors invested in high-tech stands. Of the many interesting and engaging displays, I was most impressed by those of the Dubai Maritime City Authority and DNV GL. A series of lectures and discussions where hosted at the DNV GL-Forum. “SMM is an extremely important event. Here you can meet up with all the key players of the maritime industry at a single location,” said Group President and CEO Remi Eriksen.


Another major topic addressed by this year’s event was Green Propulsion. The fair organisers had erected a dedicated, 3,500 square metre exhibition hall to feature relevant products and services. “This special hall provided an optimal setting for us to showcase our competencies as a specialist for hybrid and fully electric propulsion systems,” said Andreas Baumüller, Managing Director of Baumüller Group. The new hall had been completely booked several weeks ahead of the beginning of the fair.

The event featured more than 2,200 exhibitors from all over the world, and I was among the approximately 50,000 industry visitors that explored the 93,000 square metres of exhibition space, marveling at the many great stands and excited by the future of shipping. It’s fair to say the the 27th SMM was a major success, with those in attendance and those organising the event both happy with the outcome. “The overwhelming turnout is proof of a general sense of anticipation that was palpable during the four days of the fair, as well,” said Bernd Aufderheide, President and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH. Considering the difficult situation of the industry, this was an especially encouraging fair, he added. Uwe Beckmeyer, Parliamentary Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, and Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Industry, emphasised the importance of SMM as an innovation driver: “SMM is a very special platform. The world loves to gather here for this event,” he said.


Never before had SMM been as international as this year: More than two thirds of exhibitors hailed from countries other than Germany. “It was again a great experience to be here. We learnt a lot, and we were able to get plenty of inspiration and establish great new business contacts,” said Nawfal Al-Jourani, Head of Dubai Maritime Cluster Office. Several countries, including Iran, Greece und Malaysia, presented their combined maritime know-how in national pavilions for the first time this year. “SMM is a very lively trade fair, and the response to our presence here was great,” emphasised Marketing Officer Derrick Armstrong Cowan of the Malaysian national pavilion. The Iranian Association of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was equally pleased: “We were very happy to see such great interest in our stand. During the very first days alone we were able to sign several important contracts,” said Majid Izadkhah, Director and Founder of K.T.P Group.