Navigating the decarbonization maze using digital technologies

Written by  
digitalization and decarbonization experts

Sarah Barrett, product insights and Kay Dausendschön, head of product, Wärtsilä Voyage

by Sarah Barrett, product insights and Kay Dausendschön, head of product, Wärtsilä Voyage

How do you plan on navigating the complex maze of decarbonisation regulations set to shake up maritime operations from 2023 onwards? Digital technologies should feature prominently in your sustainability strategy, but so should a solid data strategy.

We’ve all read much about the IMO’s EEXI and CII requirements (International Maritime Organization’s Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index and Carbon Intensity Indicator), which will be implemented from 2023 onwards. While laudable in terms of their environmental ambition, these regulations are set to further increase complexity and heap pressure on owners, operators and charterers. Add in factors like the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme and proposed bills on maritime emissions being debated in the U.S/ Congress, and it’s already clear that the next few years are only going to see more regulatory fragmentation and yet further complexity, rather than less. This will spur material changes in the way that the sector has to do business.

As the maritime industry adjusts to this new operating environment, its decision makers are waking up to the fact that intelligent technologies are more than just a “nice-to-have.” They’re central to commerciality. The industry needs every ally possible in its complex journey towards decarbonization, and already digitalization is proving to be a powerful ally indeed.

The maritime industry is a sector based on a blend of long-term planning and moment-to-moment decision-making. Connecting up all the dots, particularly in a regulatory environment that is constantly changing and intensifying, is becoming increasingly difficult. But digital technologies are already proving their mettle by shaping the way that stakeholders in the industry frame, consider and execute key decisions.

By working with holistic software that enables insight-driven decision-making across the entire vessel or fleet, you can optimize fleet navigation, facilitate compliance, enhance performance, and improve efficiency. Some of these immediate benefits are especially important in the context of the decarbonization challenge. For example, reductions in fuel consumption have an economical and an emissions upside today but will become even more critical in the future when maritime deploys more expensive, low carbon fuels.

Underpinning these solutions is data—its management, its analysis, and ultimately the insights that stakeholders are able to derive from it. Software solutions, even those powered with artificial intelligence and machine learning, are only as good as the data that’s fed into them.  

Beyond their direct operational benefits, solutions that break down data silos and bring different inputs into one central platform also enhance transparency and accountability. This not only aids decision making but also underpins Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, which is a parallel area of focus for many maritime organizations alongside the operational challenges posed by decarbonization.  

Unlike manual processes, software can gather data constantly and more accurately, which means it can adapt in near real-time and provide the right insights when they are most useful. This helps decision-making both on the ship and onshore, as all stakeholders know they have the same information, at the same time, and they can trust it’s accurate.

Digital technologies also offer the ability to track iterative change through historical data analysis. Performance data can then be input into a feedback loop to improve operations, processes and models going forwards, meaning that we are only seeing the start of the benefits of digital technologies, not the ultimate end point.

The explosion of data volumes at maritime’s disposal—79 zettabytes, the equivalent to 79 trillion gigabytes in 2021—might be daunting, but it also presents an exciting opportunity. With a fractured and fragmented regulatory backdrop, any route to operational certainty is not only welcome, but becomes critical for maritime companies, no matter if the end user is at sea or onshore.

The challenge is finding the right partner who can help break down silos, overcome fragmentation, and deliver a holistic view of the entire fleet or vessel ecosystem, to support not only decarbonization aims, but also underpin the critical decision-making that will keep the industry ticking during this era of real change.

The video below outlines Wärtsilä Voyage’s approach in more detail.

Categories: Op-Eds, Perspectives Tags: , , , , ,