Leverage on new innovative solutions to stay on course, say maritime leaders and tech entrepreneurs

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Maritime and technology leaders at the Sea Asia 2019 preview panel discussion today (Tuesday) highlighted the significant role of start-up companies, particularly those in the technology sector, in bringing the maritime industry into the digital age and creating growth opportunities driven by innovation.

Speaking ahead of the Sea Asia conference and exhibition in April, the leaders also brought to light the benefits that the maritime industry have enjoyed thus far as a result of the creativity and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking displayed by start-up companies.

Kenneth Lim, Chief Technology Officer at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), shared how there are many compelling reasons to focus on start-ups in maritime, with start-ups presenting a push for existing maritime companies to look at new ways of doing things.

“Many companies in the maritime industry are already looking at ways to transform themselves. Start-ups challenge these companies to think differently – they ask questions around why are things being done a certain way, and are there different business models that can be developed. Start-ups also provide an avenue of digitalisation to maritime companies today.

“In addition, start-ups provide the opportunity for the maritime industry to attract new talent that may come from other backgrounds such as FinTech and healthcare, who may feel that they can make a difference to the maritime industry with their solutions,” said Mr Lim.

He further noted that it is important for the industry to then provide the best environment for start-ups to develop. Initiatives such as P71 and the Sea Asia Innovation Arena are key in the development of start-ups in maritime.

Speaking on behalf of the shipping industry, Esben Poulsson, Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping; President of the Singapore Shipping Association; and Chairman of Enesel shared that start-ups are key elements of change in the maritime industry today.

“Things are changing faster in this industry than ever before. The industry has made promises particularly around the environment that will force it to move quickly and start-ups are increasingly playing a larger role in helping the industry meet these promises given the emphasis they put on innovation,” noted Mr Poulsson, adding that it is also encouraging how start-ups are bringing younger generation of workers into the industry.

Speaking on behalf of the maritime start-up community, John Hahn, CEO and co-founder of Ocean Freight Exchange (OFE) shared that with his experiences being in the industry, he understood the “pain points” that industry players are facing.

“This then sparked the idea of developing a solution that will reduce the waiting time for bunker tankers and at the same time, increase their number of turns.

“Our solution, Right Bunker, a web-based scheduler bunker delivery optimisation system aims to solve that problem. We also saw that the solution fit really well with one of the problem statements by PIER71 and hence, participated in the Smart Port Challenge 2018,” said Mr Hahn, whose company went on to win the challenge.

Representing Wilhemlsen Ships Service, Marius Johansen, Vice President, Commercial (Ships Agency), noted how the company understands the need for innovation in the industry and that support of start-ups is equally key.

“Innovation is absolutely fundamental to our company and in our vision to become a ‘shaper’ of the maritime industry, we acknowledge that we need to work closely with start-up companies to leverage on their innovative solutions and ideas. So far, we have worked with several start-ups at various levels, providing them with financial investments and mentorship, among others.

“We also support initiatives like PIER71 and incubators as we believe that it is important for the industry and existing maritime companies to be receptive and supportive of the start-up environment,” said Mr Johansen.

Editor of Seatrade Maritime News and panel moderator, Marcus Hand, highlighted that in line with the theme of the day’s discussion, this year’s edition of Sea Asia will feature a dedicated pavilion for start-up companies.

Featured for the first time at Sea Asia, and sponsored by Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Panasonic R&D Centre Singapore, the Innovation Arena provides a platform for start-up companies, winners and participants of the Smart Port Challenge 2018 to showcase their creative and innovative solutions for the maritime industry.

Mr Hand added: “This year’s edition of Sea Asia will also explore the upcoming challenges and opportunities facing the maritime industry at a time when digitalisation is on the rise and new regulations come into force.

“We look forward to Sea Asia 2019 providing an international platform for maritime leaders to come together to discuss and debate how the industry can prepare itself for upcoming changes and trends.”

Jointly organised by UBM (Seatrade) and the Singapore Maritime Foundation, Sea Asia 2019 will take place in Singapore from 9th -11th April 2019 at the Marina Bay Sands.