Seaborne trade keeps the world going. According to data released last year by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), international seaborne trade expanded by 4 per cent in 2017 — the fastest growth since 2012 — and that year, 10.7 billion tons of goods were loaded worldwide; 1.5 billion tons more than in 2012.
A key beneficiary of the growing global maritime trade has been the UAE, with its hub port in Dubai. It maintained the highest Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) in the sub-region — LSCI is an indicator of how accessible a region is to global trade — and container port traffic in the UAE grew from 5.05 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units) in 2001 to an impressive 21.28 million TEU in 2017.
With major investments into its ports’ infrastructure, the UAE is widely recognised as a centre for ports and logistics services globally.
Looking ahead at the next decade, the maritime trade in this region is expected to post healthy growth. “With major investments into its ports’ infrastructure, the UAE is widely recognised as a centre for ports and logistics services globally,” says Peter Richards, Group CEO, Gulftainer.
Here we look at some of the key trends shaping the future of port management, freight and the maritime industry.
Ports and logistics
By 2030, Richards predicts automation would have significantly impacted ports and the logistics industry. “There’s no denying the advent of autonomy in the maritime sector, which means that we need to embrace it and understand how best to navigate the emerging opportunities and challenges,” he says, adding that the trend is catching on, albeit slowly, with less than 5 per cent of container volume reportedly managed by fully automated terminals in the past two years. Automation will also create “unmatched opportunities” in port infrastructure, cargo handling, information processing and communication, and on-ground logistics management. Besides, with timelines becoming extremely crucial to business, services that offer faster turnaround will be in demand.
Nabil Ben Soussia, Vice President — Maritime at IEC Telecom Group notes that with 90 per cent of worldwide trade served by the maritime market, vessels at sea rely on broadband connectivity and VSAT to stay in touch. By 2030, connectivity will play an even bigger role in improving operations and efficiencies in the maritime industry. “The need for fast and efficient communications, including video conferencing, tele-medicine, IoT and more, aboard vessels and between land and sea, will drive the usage of VSAT technology,” he says. Soussia adds that more than 50,000 merchant ships ply the oceans every day and, according to the fifith edition of the NSR Maritime SATCOM Markets, more than 14,000 vessels are currently connected via broadband VSAT. This number is projected to rise to more than 37,000 vessels by 2026.
The need for fast and efficient communications, including video conferencing, tele-medicine, IoT and more, aboard vessels and between land and sea, will drive the usage of VSAT technology.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World, has asserted that in the future, it will be possible to transport freight at the speed of flight and at the cost of trucking, using the company’s Cargospeed Hyperloop transportation system, which is capable of ferrying cargo at speeds of up to 1,000 kmph. And, in the coming decade, it is expected to make its way to major ports around the world, transforming not just cargo transportation, but also supply-chain management. The system is all-electric and has zero emission.
In the past, large container ships typically had a crew size of over 50. In recent years, that has come down to 20-30. But fast forward to 2030, and that is likely to dwindle to just a handful of support technicians. Or perhaps, ships won’t even have a single crew member onboard. Ben Soussia believes autonomous ships can help eliminate human error, reduce crew costs, enable space efficiencies in ship design and use of fuel.
Jobs of the future
According to Dubai Chamber, the maritime sector here accounts for around 3.3 per cent of the emirate’s jobs — 76,200 people work in maritime-related industries. So will autonomous ships and onshore automation make many of these jobs redundant? Well, the UNCTAD 2018 Review of Maritime Transport refers to a 2017 study done in the Netherlands, which estimated that the number of jobs in the maritime cluster will decrease by at least 25 per cent with the advent of automation. Jobs in the port sector are projected to drop by 8.2 per cent. Other categories at risk are maritime suppliers and inland navigation. However, at a seminar held in Dubai in September 2018, Peter Due, Director Autonomy, Global Sales & Marketing at Kongsberg Maritime, insisted that autonomous vessels would still need a maintenance crew onboard. His company plans to deliver the world’s first fully autonomous container ship by 2020, and Due added that unmanned ships will also need to be monitored by sailors working in onshore centres. In short, the jobs will still be there, but will require different skill sets.
Ships in distress
How ships call for assistance is due for a major upgrade with the addition of Iridium to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), an international standard for maritime communications in the event of an emergency. Ben Soussia asserts this is an important development because the current satellite system does not offer global coverage. Iridium’s GMDSS, however, will provide full coverage at even extreme latitudes as well as provide mariners an all-in-one terminal for Distress Alert, Maritime Safety Information and Distress Voice. “This will allow for better communication, therefore enabling more effective search and rescue operations for safer seas in the future,” says Soussia.
Lloyd’s Register, in its Martime 2030 report, observes that the decade of 2020s-2030s is the most significant in terms of action to reach the global shipping industry’s goal of halving carbon emissions by 2050. And considering that ships typically have operating lives of 20-30 years, zero-emission vessels (ZEVs) need to be entering the world’s fleet by 2030. But to pull this off, it will need collaborative joint ventures involving not only maritime industry participants, but also fuel technology companies, equipment manufacturers and energy developers from other industrial sectors outside of shipping.
The industry is certainly rising to the challenge. Last year, Dubai-based Zaitoun Green Shipping formed an international consortium with industry heavyweights. So while the jury is still out on when ZEVs will actually arrive, we can at least be sure that ships in 2030 will not just be smarter, but also greener.
Dubai, A maritime star
This year, the maritime cluster in Dubai has a great reason to celebrate. The Menon Economics and DNV GL, a global organisation that benchmarks maritime capitals, announced in April that Dubai had moved one spot up from its 2017 ranking as the world’s 10th most important maritime capital. Moreover, it is currently rated as the leading maritime cluster in the Middle East, Africa and India. The chairman of Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA), Sultan Bin Sulayem, attributes Dubai’s maritime achievements to “a focus on research and development (R&D) and innovation to develop integrated logistics programs and advanced infrastructure and legislation”.
According to data from the DMCA, the maritime cluster here is home to more than 7,400 active companies involved in over 13,000 activities, and contributes 7 per cent to Dubai’s GDP. DMCA also states that Dubai has emerged as a destination for leading maritime events, and a place for leaders from the shipping industry to converge, interact and transfer knowledge. By 2024, DMCA projects Dubai would have become one of the top five maritime hubs of the world, competing with the likes of Hong Kong and other major European maritime centres. And by 2030? Well, chances are Dubai might be the maritime capital of the world.
Gulftainer enhances operational efficiencies
Gulftainer has been at the forefront of transforming port and logistics operations globally, innovating constantly and upgrading its offerings to meet the gaps in the industry.
“With a strong digital approach, its strategy is driven towards enhancing its operational efficiency and optimising capacity of its existing ports as well as investing in key partnerships around the world,” says Fred Castonguay II, Chief Operating Officer, Gulftainer Group.
“Gulftainer’s newly-enhanced digital strategy provides a real-time computing power to help operators keep up with the large amount of cargo entering and leaving ports on mega ships, while making sure that the containers are unloaded and loaded without a hitch, in the shortest turnaround time.
Gulftainer’s newly-enhanced digital strategy provides a real-time computing power to help operators keep up with the large amount of cargo entering and leaving ports on mega ships, while making sure that the containers are unloaded and loaded without a hitch, in the shortest turnaround time.
Gulftainer has taken a customer-centric approach to offer its clients the best value in the market. For example, its new sea cargo clearance service, Sharjah Port of Trade (S.P.O.T.), substantially improves time and cost-saving for customers by offering unmatched inland connectivity within the UAE.
Within a month of the launch, the company secured four customers for S.P.O.T. that serves as an inland extension of the Gulftainer-operated Khorfakkan Container Terminal (KCT). The GALEX service (GLX), offered jointly by Emirates Shipping Line (ESL) and Korea Marine Transport Co. (KMTC), was the first to benefit from this value-added offering, and successfully completed its first direct call at Gulftainer operated Khorfakkan Container Terminal (KCT) in a record 3.4 hours.
“Gulftainer is committed to developing its port facilities in the UAE – Sharjah Container Terminal (SCT), Khorfakkan Container Terminal and Hamriya Port. With recent terminal upgrades, including the expansion of SCT’s full container storage yard by over 17 per cent and the ability to operate bigger vessels, Gulftainer continues to enhance its capabilities to meet the evolving needs and expectations of its customers,” says Castonguay II.