New technologies need to be user-friendly and not add administrative burden to assure crew buy-in on the journey towards a greener future, writes Mikael Laurin, Head of Vessel Optimization at Yara Marine.
This year’s theme for the International Maritime Organization’s Day of the Seafarer, “Your voyage – then and now, share your journey”, provides an opportunity for us to celebrate our workforce and the vital role they play in keeping the global supply chain running. As an industry, we can also use moments such as this to take stock of our own collective voyage, the lessons we have learned from our journey so far, and the rapid shifts in speed and direction that will be required as we prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Part of this is to better understand the needs of today’s workforce, particularly the younger generation. While seafaring was once a possibility for exploration and adventure, it is becoming an increasingly competitive and technologically oriented field which offers a great deal of opportunity for the right person.
Alongside attracting new talent, we need to find ways in which to retain existing experienced crew. One way to achieve this is to create opportunities for the crew so that they go beyond just surviving and actually thrive in this industry – and at Yara Marine we believe that the way we design technology can have a lot to do with that.
The nexus of tech provision and crew needs
As a technology provider, we know success lies not just in designing smart equipment, but equipment that speaks to the needs of crews. We need to meet people where they are rather than where we might wish them to be.
This holds particularly true for the maritime industry which, pre-pandemic, largely lagged other industries when it came to digitization. COVID-19 hastened digital transformation, but we still see many areas that were not fully prepared to meet the coming requirements and the impending decarbonization of our industry. Development spurred by legal requirements are now ensuring that crews will soon have to contend with more digital systems on board. Training and educating the existing workforce will be a sizeable challenge for our industry, particularly as we continue to weather the crewing crisis brought about by the pandemic and current geopolitical issues.
With this in mind, we must prioritize effective technology solutions that are user-friendly, intuitive, and enable smooth and efficient operations onboard. Technology must give time back to crews who will need it to perform their duties. By streamlining systems and workload, crews can focus on the tasks that truly need their attention.
Furthermore, as seafarers experience how well-designed technology can smooth the path of day-to-day life onboard, they are more likely to embrace automation and new technologies.
This is how we can truly advance our industry and achieve greater stakeholder buy-in across the board. After all, seafarers are the linchpin upon which our industry and global trade turns – making them a vital stakeholder in the processes of digitization and decarbonization.
Connecting greener futures to crews
In the maritime industry’s journey towards decarbonization, much of the focus is on developing new fuels and technologies to lower emissions. We want to stress that it is critical to ensure that the safety, skills, and requirements of the crews, who will be handling these new fuels and engaging with these new technologies, are considered at every stage. All stakeholders have a duty to make sure that new technologies do not add excessively to the burdens of crews in order to ensure the safety of seafarers, vessels, and port communities.
We must all remember that the success of any decarbonization initiative depends on the crews operating these vessels adopting and embracing the ways of operating. Without a crew that is not only invested in cleaner operations but capable of effectively and efficiently carrying out operations, we are unlikely to see long-term sustainable change in the near future.
…and IMO’s 2030 targets are less than 8 years away.
Technology assisting safety
From my experience in the maritime sector, I know just how important it is for ship safety to ensure that on board environments supports the crew. Any number of factors, ranging from fatigue to insufficient training, could spell tragedy and result not only in loss of life but also environmental disaster and reputational damage.
I believe that the ideal scenario is one in which ship-owners are offered holistic solutions that not only includes sophisticated technologies, but also crew training that is accessible and goes beyond basic operational compliance, to achieve the best possible results. Ship-owners looking at new technologies must make ease of use, reduction of workload, and simplicity of operations priorities when it comes to the selection criteria.
By bringing seafarers into the process, we bring grassroots commitment and can make our goals shared by all stakeholders. We invest in their journey, and they in ours – and we will work together towards a better, greener future.