Engineering is all about making things better or safer. While the marine industry has enjoyed centuries of innovation, things can always be improved. New technology is making things more efficient for the marine sector, but more importantly, its making things safer too.
Thanks to augmented reality, advanced scanning systems, and the ever-increasing amount of data produced by ships, the industry is now more able to take preventative or corrective measures before things go wrong.
Everything can be analysed, refined, and repaired thanks to a deeper level of understanding of every element of the ship through the Internet of Things. By fixing problems before they become major issues, businesses can save money, and keep their crews safe on ships that are running at optimum capacity. This keeps ships running efficiently, without long repair times slowing the ship down or stopping it completely.
However, if things do go wrong, additive manufacturing can help keeps ships running smoothly by creating spare parts on the fly as they’re needed. Ships must be as fuel efficient as possible, carrying only exactly what is needed in order to maximise haulage.
Currently ships may only carry a few vital spare parts, and would be left adrift if anything were to go wrong. Ordering parts can take weeks or even months to arrive, causing delays, or unsafe travel. 3D printing allows for new parts to be manufactured while at sea, meaning repairs can be made faster without carrying unnecessary parts.
Ports will soon be equipped with their own manufacturing bays, allowing for larger and more complex parts to be made, saving time and money, helping to keep ships on schedule. This is just one of the ways ports are going to play a larger role in the marine industry, with the advent of smart ports revolutionising the sector.
Artificial Intelligence allows for predictions to be made about shipping routes, weather patterns, and other factors that may impact the journey. Highly accurate computer programs can now determine the viability of a particular journey before the ship even leaves the harbour, thanks to information gathered and analysed in real time.
This means any incoming problems can be recognised and dealt with ahead of time, meaning storms can be circumnavigated, fuel saved, and safer journeys.
Satellites are helping keeping ships safe by tracking them across large and otherwise unprotected expanses of ocean. While this technology originated in the aerospace industry, it’s proven to be invaluable in the fight against pirates.
All ships are required to maintain a unique, continuous signal to allow for tracking anywhere in the world. Any ships that don’t are likely to be operating in illegal operations, and are attempting to hide their location. Satellites are now so sophisticated that they can identify ships from orbit, locate those which aren’t broadcasting a signal, and report them to any other ships in the area.
The marine sector has famously used some of the lowest-grade fuels for long haulage trips, resulting in massive amounts of pollution. This not only impacts the marine ecosystem, but can also damage the health of the crew. The International Maritime Organisation has put new legislation into place to cut emissions from all ships by 2020.
New greener fuels like LNG will reduce the pollutions released by ships, meaning cleaner air for those onboard.
All of this new technology is helping the marine industry move into the new century, making shipping more environmentally friendly, efficient, and cost-effective.
Learn more about how autonomous technology will change the shipping industry, or read about how Brexit might impact the marine sector.
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