Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Digitalisation proves its immense value to shipping

Published:Tuesday | December 22, 2020 | 12:06 AM

The digital revolution is transforming the world. Data is being generated, shared, stored, and analysed in amounts, and at speeds, that are increasing exponentially every year. Today, the data we create, access, and control is having an increasing impact both on how we live and on how industry performs.

It is therefore fortuitous that, even as the world became immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalisation in some key industries had progressed to the stage where digital information flows were driving the automation of processes and functions, and was therefore able to positively impact both safety and commercial performance. Jamaica’s maritime industry has embraced digitalisation and this is proving to be of immense value in keeping the supply chain open, even during the height of the pandemic.

Before going any further, it is useful to differentiate between ‘digitisation’ and ‘digitalisation’. Digitisation is the conversion of analog information to digitised data, while digitalisation is the use of digital technologies and digitised data to impact how work gets done, transform how customers and companies engage and interact, and create new (digital) revenue streams. Automation, for example, has become a form of digital technology.

AUTOMATED SYSTEMS KEEPING THE SUPPLY CHAIN OPEN

As noted in the 2020 annual report of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ), “the preparations made to automate systems paid huge dividends in mitigating the effects of the pandemic”. The industry had implemented the Port Community System (PCS) after the SAJ had made the initial investments in establishing its feasibility. The PCS and ASYCUDA (the Automated System for Customs Data) have formed the foundation of automated systems that have allowed the shipping industry to reduce the need for human interaction.

Looking ahead, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is encouraging greater use of digitalisation and new technologies. Speaking during a recent webinar on ‘Digital Connectivity and Data Standards’, IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim said the pandemic demonstrated how important the maritime industry was to the global economy and community, but that a new way of thinking was needed to help it recover.

“It is crucially important to ensure the functioning of the global supply chains and the facilitation of the safe and efficient operation of maritime transport,” Lim said, adding that “digitalisation, big data, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence are key in enabling the post-COVID recovery and taking shipping into this new era”.

Combining data streams from multiple sources allows the maritime industry to make faster and better-informed decisions, creating more efficient and responsive organisations. New cloud-based technologies, such as big data platforms and digital twin technologies, are starting to have a dramatic effect on how the industry manages information.

A MORE DIGITAL FUTURE

At a recent webinar staged by the Caribbean Shipping Association to discuss the application of technology in the ‘new normal’, Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), spoke on ‘Trends and emerging practice in digitisation – implications for the Caribbean’. She said that CARICOM is moving towards a “single ICT space” that requires a regionally harmonised ecosystem; robust broadband infrastructure; common frameworks for government, the private sector and civil society; and governance and management systems.

The secretary general of the CTU said that business and government in the 21st century is digitalised, customer-focused, seamless, integrated, resilient and predictable. She pointed out, however, that “digitalisation is not just putting records in digital format, but ‘reimagining’ to come up with new and more efficient ways of doing things”.

REIMAGING WITH ADVANTUM

For Jamaica and the Caribbean to move forward along the digital highway, we need information communications technology professionals who live and thrive in this new world of reimagining the workplace and entire industries. One such group of professionals comprise the ADVANTUM team that has been providing port, shipping, freight and transportation companies in the Caribbean with the information technology services required for a smooth and effective transition to this new world of speed, efficiency and customer satisfaction. Although ADVANTUM products have been used widely in the shipping and logistics industry over the years, several applications transcend shipping and also help other enterprises to manage resources and financials with greater efficiencies, such as ADVANTUM Financials, ADVANTUM Payroll and ADVANTUM Deploy.

SERIES OF ARTICLES ON DIGITALISATION

During the year 2021, The Gleaner Shipping Feature will be collaborating with ADVANTUM to provide a series of articles that will explore this exciting world of innovative technology applications, beginning next month with ‘The role of the ICT business analyst’. The ICT business analyst is a problem-solver and the best resource person to recommend the most appropriate solutions for the specific and projected needs of businesses.

Other articles in this series on digitalisation will cover: System integration – Connecting the dots; work from home; network security; GPS for trade and transport; eLabour and HR applications.

We want to hear from you. Please share your feedback on these and other articles appearing on this page, by emailing us at saj@jamports.com.