Op-Ed: Maritime Digitization Will Boost Efficiency and Improve Predictive Maintenance

Written by

Heather Ervin

By Jeremy Hermans, Co-founder and CEO of DockWorks

Empty shelves and ships stuck outside busy U.S. ports have made it clear to even those unfamiliar with the shipping industry that shipping has an immeasurable need to improve its ability to operate efficiently. .

As band-aids are applied to the loudest issues brought to light in the wake of the COVID-19 shipping collapse and resulting disrupted supply chain, the need for the shipping industry to modernizing is more obvious than ever. The industry needs to improve its ability to predict maintenance demands, downtime, and manage compliance and cybersecurity requirements. This can only be achieved if the maritime industry embraces digitalization as part of its overall productivity improvement plans.

Traditionally, the shipping industry has been cautious of any initiative to digitize its processes due to a delicate but huge supply chain across the globe that could be disrupted if digitization were injected into its operations. There is an overreliance on outdated systems and a climate that does not favor investment in innovation.

But just as technology has permeated the home service and auto repair industries to solve similar problems, the maritime sector must begin to streamline its processes in order to remain efficient, meet compliance goals and attract a new generation of workers to replace retiring baby boomers.


Jeremy Hermans

Most ships work no matter what. If maintenance is required, it must be performed on the water while the vessel is transporting cargo to and from various ports. Digitizing service helps give operators insight into predictive maintenance so that the parts needed to perform services can be ordered well in advance of any maintenance issues and are still readily available during trips.

The digitization of industry can provide ship operators with a variety of scientific data that can prioritize a ship’s maintenance schedule, increase fuel efficiency, reduce crew time and costs, achieve regulatory compliance and analyze data generated from a vessel’s various digital maintenance records.

Keeping outdated records leads to loss of crew efficiency, shorter run times, and an inability to predict downtime or maintenance needs. Having the technology to receive updates from vessels in real time using updated maintenance records helps operators recognize aging systems. This reduces operating costs and allows for longer run times between maintenance services.


From a technical perspective, digitalization needs to be standardized and scalable so that new business models can be developed to ensure that the maritime industry as a whole can embrace modernization without disrupting the existing logistics operation. Digitization should increase efficiency and not create more of the same problems the shipping industry has been experiencing over the past few months.

Most operators already use digital communications to forecast weather systems and track trade routes. Adapting modern methods to improve vessel maintenance, reduce redundant paperwork and plan for supply chain growth and volatility is therefore more a matter of creating a framework than introducing foreign concepts.

Operators will easily be able to adopt data as an asset, but they will need the help of government policy makers and buy-in from owners to push the adoption of digitization.


All commercial vessels must deal with a multitude of agencies in every port around the world to comply with regulatory requirements dictated by each country and international regulations.

The modernization would automate much of the information that needs to be processed to meet compliance and reduce the paperwork required at each dock location. This helps avoid regulatory gaps and helps owners, operators and other stakeholders work with technical development teams on ways to standardize digital platforms to meet future compliance needs.

But with digitization comes the risk of cybersecurity attacks. The shipping industry has already seen malware and phishing attacks that have taken the need for maritime cybersecurity from denial to business acceptance. Regulatory requirements as part of shipboard inspections for industry compliance and cybersecurity are not far behind. Industry modernization will allow ships to easily download compliance and cybersecurity updates.

Despite any lingering reluctance to modernize, customers, regulators and future employees will drive industry demand for digitization to reduce port delays, improve device visibility and control, and better integrate the supply chain. ‘supply. The maritime industry must be flexible and pragmatic in its modernization strategies.

To remain competitive, compliant and secure, the maritime industry must embrace modernization and move towards digitalization. Their bottom line and future effectiveness demand it.