The global digitalisation and decarbonisation of the Shipping Industry

Wayne Durkin
18 May 2021
Marine Travel

The digitalisation of systems became common practice during the pandemic, but for Maritime companies it was already part of an on-going process, to improve efficiencies and become more environmentally friendly.  In his blog below Clyde Travel Management Sales Manager, Wayne Durkin asks: 'What part does your maritime travel partner play in this journey?'

"A recent McKinsey survey of senior executives has found that the pandemic has speeded up the adoption of digital technologies by many years, with many of these changes remaining in place long-term.  For the shipping industry digitalisation continues at an ever-increasing pace, driven through advances in technology aligned to a readiness to look for innovative ways to drive efficiencies and new ways of working. 

"The program of digitalisation encompasses every part of the operations of fleets, including vessel operations, crew management and port operations.  Two-thirds of shipping companies have started their digital journey, according to a survey conducted by Informa Engage on behalf of Wärtsilä Marine Business, with the main agenda of tackling operating costs, and an urgent need to address growing safety, security, health, and environmental concerns.

"Shipping companies are therefore looking at their entire supply chain to drive forward this innovation strategy through the development and integration of products and services within the technology ecosystem.  This is supported by research by Deloitte in their annual CPO report which reports that cost is no longer the number one strategic priority for procurement managers.

"In the latest report driving operational efficiency is the number one priority for procurement teams in 2021, moving reducing costs into the number two spot.  Whilst this will be music to the ears of many suppliers, it will also ensure that there will be a greater focus on suppliers that can support innovation, collaborate across the shipping supply chain, and add value to digital transformation projects.

"Digital transformation and innovation took the number three and four spots in the Deloitte report respectively.  This has made me consider how this change in priorities for many global procurement teams will impact our market segments, and how maritime travel specialists can support the digital revolution in the shipping industry.  Not only by driving efficiencies in crew mobilisations, but by also using data to improve decision making regarding environmental impact and traveller wellbeing. 

"Maritime travel plays a vital part in the successful delivery of operational performance by supporting the crewing and operational teams to mobilise the global workforce.  On a daily basis we move crew to and from projects and port stops around the globe, ensuring that the right people, are in place at the right time.  This has recently played an important part in helping shipping companies to keep crew changes happening (albeit at a reduced rate) through some of the most challenging periods most of us have experienced.

"Some global maritime travel specialists are already using technology to help companies to simplify workforce mobilisation processes. This allows companies to manage crew travel bookings more efficiently by integrating their travel technology with customers crew and HR management systems.  In our case this has resulted in many of our customers now looking at moving their crew mobilisations onto hybrid online and people-based travel management platforms. 

"These platforms streamline the management of crew changes, whilst providing visibility of expenditure and active bookings.  In addition, the platform should provide country-based health and entry guidance.  Most importantly they enable companies to react quicker and assist employees with any issues that may occur during trips.  As part of these projects maritime travel companies are also integrating their services much deeper within their customer environments by digitally liaising with port agents to support immigration, crew welfare and airport to vessel transfers.

"As vessel connectivity and technology continues to improve, this will have positive impacts for crew welfare onboard, but also potentially see a greater number of off signing crew bookings initiated by senior officers from vessels.  This would result in off-signing crew managed directly with the travel partner with integrated platforms providing visibility of costs and bookings to crewing or personnel departments.

"However, new innovations and ways of working should always drive efficiencies through automation. It is therefore extremely important that new travel technology does not make crewing or personnel managers travel bookers and add extra tasks to an already full workload. 

"Alongside technology, specialist travel management partners should also provide the support of a team of travel experts, who are on hand to provide consultancy and guidance available 24 hours a day.  With the increased complexity of health and entry requirements this has never been more important as the regulations of countries evolve and change on a weekly basis.   

"The decarbonisation programme for the shipping is well underway alongside digitalisation, with the International Maritime Organization declaring “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet” as its world maritime theme for 2020.  This has resulted in ongoing innovations and developments stretching right across the supply chain. Decarbonization targets pose challenges for a range of stakeholders, including the impact of travel related emissions for crew changes. 

"We are already seeing several our customers starting projects with us to look at how they can make crew changes as environmentally efficient as possible.  Working with a maritime travel specialist can help companies to reduce their carbon emissions by providing consultancy and guidance around best practise and areas for improvement.  From a digital perspective your travel partner will be able to use the wealth of data we have at our disposal to improve decision making for flights, hotels and port transfers by making informed choices on the environmental impact pre-trip.

"As the world starts the long recovery post Covid, has your business moved forwards technology wise during the pandemic and what changes do you see your organisation making in the short term future to support the drive towards digitalisation?  Will the greater awareness of costs and environmental data captured start to influence which ports are used or preferred for crew changes?  It would be great to hear your ideas and current activities in the comments.  You can find out more about our crewing technology here and our latest Covid country entry report here.  Or contact our team at if you would like to discuss how we could support an upcoming travel digitalisation project for your business."

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