The European ferry sector is the silver lining in the grey skies over the shipping industry at the moment. We are fortunate that DFDS is enjoying reasonably strong financial performance, and we aim to continue in that direction despite storm clouds on the horizon.
My biggest concern for the future of the shipping industry is our impact on the environment. We need courage to solve our sustainability issues before it’s too late. We need to accept some financial risk and support those who take the lead and pioneer new ideas.
Can digitisation help us? Maybe. There’s a lot of talk at the moment about what this trend means for the shipping industry and how we can cope with it. On the plus side, better digital technologies will help us collect and optimise data in order to improve both our products and our bottom line. It’s clearly beneficial to get closer to customers and streamline information flows.
Digitisation and automation will play a big role in our response to the EU Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) regulation, which comes into force in January 2018. This requires every ship calling at EU ports to record and report in detail on oil usage during each journey and while in port. However, the MRV regulation might be an example of recording big data for the sake of it, without looking at the question of how we use it. In my view, this massive reporting exercise will not save one tonne of CO2.
Why? Energy is a major cost, so most companies already have systems to optimise performance and energy consumption. A new reporting system is just a new system, and in some cases a burden. It doesn’t mean we will save more energy and I doubt decision-makers will make much use of it. Collecting and sharing data is a good idea if we want to reduce our environmental footprint, but only as long as we use it cleverly.