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Technology, Startups, & Cybersecurity in Shippping – An Interview with Lars Jensen, SeaIntelligence

Lars Jensen, CEO and Partner at SeaIntelligence Consulting, talks about the technological boom in the maritime industry, the sector's reaction to new innovations and cyber security:

Developing commercially viable technologies

The development of new digital solutions accelerated in the past two decades, and although shipping has been resilient at first, Lars Jensen, CEO and Partner at SeaIntelligence, reported a more open-minded approach towards technology today.

“I am very optimistic in terms of the sheer scale and number of different pilots that have been tested out over the last few years.”

“If you look back, the last tech explosion we had, not just in shipping but overall, was back in the late 1990’s. There was not all that much buy-in from the shipowner community, but I see it very differently this time around. Of course, if you are a tech startup, you are very likely to say you want even more support and even more pilots. But in the context of what this industry has traditionally been doing, I am very optimistic in terms of the sheer scale and number of different pilots that have been tested out over the last few years.”

Cutting through the noise

Shipowners are bombarded with new technologies every day, but only some will be tested and trialled on board. At GST & Shipping2030 Europe, Jensen explained the trending decision-making process that determines which digital solutions get trialled.

“We are at a crucial point in the development [of commercially successful technology] right now. We have seen in the last few years that it was about ‘what is the promise of tech’ and ‘what’s the coolness of some of the tech’. I’m beginning to see a change, especially in some of the panels [at GST & Shipping2030], from ‘the promise of the tech’ to ‘how does this actually work in reality’. There is a beginning of a shift from discerning between ‘what might be’ and ‘what will in reality be’.”

Cross-industry collaboration is already looking at pilot projects that came through the selection process.

“It will be survival of the fittest and it will not be on the basis of how advanced or how cool that technology is. It will be the survival of the fittest on the basis of what has the largest commercial promise.”

“I think shipowners have very sensibly overlay in the last year or two decided to prioritise their efforts on a few pilots, and then focusing on different pilots, and then [going into] the evaluation phase and see what actually cuts through the noise. Likely over the next 6-12 months, we are going to be in a situation where a lot of these tech startup companies are going to reach the end-point of their initial funding. They are going to go through a new funding round, and that when we will really see who have been able to progress to the point where something has a realistic chance of being scaled commercially. They will get through that second round of funding, then the other ones will fall aside.”

Cybersecurity: “a lot of what needs to be done is not rocket science”

Increased connectivity and more digital activity bring the potential of cyber risks to any organisation. The maritime industry has experienced several large cyber-related incidents in 2017, and cybersecurity experts took the opportunity to raise awareness of the threats and cyber management practices that can aid prevention and recovery.

"I would not be surprised if we see another shipping line or port terminal shut down completely like we saw with Maersk last year."

“Cybersecurity is definitely something the industry has to take a lot more seriously than it has done in recent years. We have seen an increase in the level of awareness, especially following the attack on Maersk, but truth be told, there is a long way to go. However, the industry also needs to realise that on the one hand, the threat is very real, it is very imminent. I would not be surprised if we see another shipping line or port terminal shut down completely like we saw with Maersk last year. But we also have to realise that a lot of what needs to be done is not rocket science. A lot of this is down to sheer awareness, it is down to keeping things updated. It is down to making things more secure. It’s not about preventing attacks altogether – that’s not possible. Just like we cannot prevent fires from taking place on board ships. We know that happens and we have contingencies in place: what we do, what we need to do to limit the risk. And there is a lot that can be done on cybersecurity without necessarily having to spend tens of millions of dollars on advanced solutions.”

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