Birgit Liodden, Director of Nor-Shipping, argues that Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have the infrastructure, understanding and ambition to drive the digital transformation shipping requires for future sustainability and success.
The world isn’t standing still, and shipping can’t afford to.
The pace of change in society is accelerating every day, enabled by digitalization and facilitated by individuals and firms that see potential rather than challenges. New business models can be born overnight, efficiencies unlocked with the tap of a screen, and resources utilized as never before.
So where do we, as an industry, fit in? How can we ensure we keep up with developments and, where possible, push them forwards?
I believe we have to look to the Nordics.
Before any readers out there accuse me of bias – yes, I’m Norwegian and proud of it – I’ll back up this opinion with some hard facts. Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden fill the first four positions, in that order, in the latest European Commission Digital Economy and Society Index. This ranks nations within the continent according to connectivity, human capital (digital competency), internet use, integration of digital technology and digital public services.
The Nordics lead the way, defined by sophisticated skills, business digitalization and near universal access to high-speed services and connections.
What’s more, when compared to leading non-European nations – including the United States, South Korea and Japan – the quartet retain their positions, based on the judging criteria, emerging as undisputed world leaders.
There is no other place where digital technology is as well integrated as it is here, in the Nordics. It has emerged as a natural part of our collective culture.
This understanding, in combination with our distinct maritime heritage and expertise, gives us, and the industry as a whole, a unique opportunity. We can be a global centre of excellence for advanced digital maritime solutions.
My home country’s decision to take the lead role in autonomous vessel research provides a case in point.
In October last year the Norwegian Maritime Authority and the Norwegian Coastal Administration signed an agreement allowing for testing of autonomous ships in the Trondheim fjord in central Norway. With collaborators from across the spectrum of maritime and technology – including NTNU, Kongsberg Seatex, Kongsberg Maritime, MARINTEK, Trondheim Harbour and Maritime Robotics – this project is a world first, bringing innovative partners together in what is effectively a huge natural ‘laboratory’ to develop and pilot ideas that could transform the very nature of shipping.
And have no doubt, this endeavour is underpinned by digital expertise. The sharing of information, seamless connectivity between assets and teams at sea and on shore, and collaborative technological solutions form the very life and soul of this project.
From threat to opportunity
Shipping is facing a series of challenges – from unpredictable and hugely damaging cyclical shifts, to environmental concerns, geopolitical threats, economic macro-trends, and more. We need new solutions, new technology and new ways of working together, as we’re seeing in the Trondheim fjord, to tackle these challenges and chart a course to a sustainable future.
In short, we need to disrupt. To question convention and embrace innovation.
That’s why, at Nor-Shipping 2017, we’re dedicating the whole of Hall A to the concept of Disruptive Sustainability. This will see innovative exhibitors from the maritime field rubbing shoulders with leading players from the wider business and tech/digital industry arenas, allowing for the sharing of insights and a cross fertilization of potentially disruptive ideas.
By opening the doors to the best minds from outside the industry we can help push maritime forwards in new directions that would not have been possible working in isolation. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and anyone, and shipping needs to accept that to realize its true potential.
There’s no doubt that digital technology will be at the heart of not just our exhibition hall, but also the next generation of shipping solutions.
It therefore makes perfect sense to look to the most digitally advanced countries in the world to seek them out.
Welcome to the Nordics.