Shipping embraces digital transformation without necessarily knowing what it all means

Results from a survey carried out by Futurenautics Maritime in association with Ericsson, seen by Splash ahead of their release later today, make plain the digital revolution sweeping shipping – and the confusion surrounding this rapid transformation.

Anecdotally the global shipping industry and its suppliers have been considered ‘conservative’ in their approach to digitisation but according to more than 700 respondents to the Waypoint Digital 2017 survey 85% of ship operators, suppliers and industry stakeholders globally believe that digital initiatives are of the most, or highest importance to the financial or market success of their organisations. The figure amongst ship operators was 73%.

Asked to characterise their organisation’s digital strategy today, overall three-quarters described it as either Digital Transformation or Digital Reimagination—where radical changes to business processes, whole new business models, new digital products and services and new segmentation and customer channels were being created.

However, according to C-suite respondents 76% of their organisations are investing less than $100,000 per annum in their digital initiatives, with 57% investing less than $25,00 every year. Only 11% of organisations are investing more than $1m per year.

“These findings mean an end to the narrative that ship operators and maritime suppliers have no interest in digital transformation, it’s very clear they recognise just how critical it is,” said Roger Adamson, CEO of Futurenautics Maritime. “However, it’s very hard to see how three-quarters of shipping and maritime companies are engaged in a wholesale digital reimagination of their businesses on this kind of investment.”

Increasingly reliable and affordable connectivity to vessels is now opening the door for new digital operations, exposing inefficiencies and opaque business practices, but respondents cite lack of data and understanding about how digital trends affect the industry and their organisations’ competitiveness as their number one challenge.

“Leaders overwhelmingly feel ill-equipped to navigate the developing digital economy, making them vulnerable to disruption from new, technology-centric competitors, which should be a concern not only for the industry but for national governments looking to support their shipping and maritime sectors,” said Roger Adamson. “Companies need access to strategic advice and information around how digital shifts may affect them, and finance to invest in digital infrastructure and talent rather than more tonnage no one needs.”

The full results of the survey are available as a free research white paper by clicking here.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. For ships, the “last mile” is the last several thousand miles up to and down from a geostationary satellite.

    Owners and managers who won’t give their crews broadband are hardly likely to be taking the “digital revolution” at all seriously.

  2. Andrew is correct. Taken in context, most owners don’t care enough to move in this digital direction for their own people onboard, similarly feel little motivation to provide the same for their own office staff either. Not thinking of ‘connecting’ your ship and shoreside information system is considered a bit old school at this stage.

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