Future challenges and opportunities
The future presents many challenges, but also there are a lot of new opportunities for the maritime and shipping sectors. Technology can help solve environmental problems for shipping and improve operational efficiency, while sustainable technologies can help develop ocean space and protect the environment. The current rate of innovation is high, especially with the introduction of digitalization and new transformative technologies of cyber-physical systems. However, predicting which of these technologies will change shipping, logistics, ocean production and operations is challenging in itself.
Population growth increases the demand for food, energy and water, which will lead to an increase in the demand for water transport, renewable energy and water-based food production.
Water transport will remain the most economical means of transporting raw materials, finished goods, fuel, food and water globally. Infrastructure and links with all other modes of transport will grow and adapt in response. Maritime transport, including inland waterways, will also become an integral part of an efficient multimodal long-distance supply chain.
The growth of global trade and water transport activities will create significant new opportunities for the European maritime industry, which has a track record of providing sophisticated and innovative products and services with high added value.
Communication with all other modes of transport will be uninterrupted. Smart vessels will communicate with smart ports to limit congestion, waiting times and therefore costs, and automatically adapt their sailing speed to match the slots in the harbor.
Concerns about climate change have led to the adoption of legislation that sets limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This will require reducing the energy consumption of water transport through measures such as the use of cleaner fuels such as LNG, electrification of ships, renewable energies and fuel cells.
Monitoring of ship emissions is also required if coastal states comply with regulatory requirements. Climate change will increase the number of extreme weather events, and melting polar ice caps will affect all water sectors. This will require more durable ships and offshore structures to handle these harsher weather conditions.
The speed of innovation is accelerating, especially with the emergence of new digital industrial technologies known as Industry 4.0, which rely on transformational cyber physical systems (CPS) technologies. These systems are a combination of several major digital innovations poised to transform the industry. These technologies include cloud computing, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and sophisticated sensors, data collection and analytics, advanced robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Industry 4.0 will transform the management of interconnected systems and will become a key element in both smart manufacturing and delivery, as well as increasing competitiveness. However, predicting which of these technologies will change maritime transport and blue growth opportunities remains challenging for the future.
Digitalization and communication technologies will create new services to support transport chains, and supply chains will become more integrated for all modes of transport. In the maritime transport sector, vast amounts of data are available that will support new opportunities to improve ship operations, safety and logistics.
Application of new technologies
In the future, more ships will offer superior energy efficiency through propulsion efficiency technologies, smart and lightweight materials, and advanced hybrid energy storage systems to optimize performance. Transformative technologies will lead to advances in ship design, shipbuilding, propulsion and energy, and will undoubtedly improve the commercial and operational performance of ships.
Digitization will drive automation, lead to the development of smart ships and positively impact safety and environmental performance. New cloud technologies will significantly affect how ships and their components are designed, manufactured and operated. The Internet of Things promises to be one of the most disruptive technological revolutions since its inception.
The competitiveness of Europe’s maritime industry and its ability to comply with environmental regulations, energy efficiency, safety, protection and human factors will require research, development and innovation efforts at a much more technologically advanced level than in the past.