5 challenges of the naval-maritime and port industry
The naval industry and maritime transport have a consolidated trajectory, being a tractor activity in the economy of many countries. Today, it is a sector that faces many challenges related to decarbonization, the so-called blue economy and the innovation needed to maintain competitiveness in an increasingly globalized environment.
Increasingly, ships must respond to higher standards that minimize fuel consumption and tend to neutrality of emissions and decarbonization. The introduction of digitalization and technology is another challenge in an industry that often operates with long-established shipyards facing a change in their traditional way of operating.
Also, in recent years, the naval sector has developed relevant innovations in the field of ship design, batteries for ship electrification, new fuels, ecological ports and intelligent logistics that are promoting a more sustainable supply chain.
Like all other industries, the naval and maritime transport must adapt their production models to the new climate requirements implemented in international agreements. For example, from January 2020 all ships must use very low-sulphur fuel, according to the standards of the International Maritime Organisation, which expects it to have major benefits for health and the environment worldwide, particularly for people living near ports and coastlines.
2. New propulsion systems
The diesel engine has for years been the reference system for maritime transport. However, due to environmental requirements, alternatives such as biofuels are emerging: biodiesel and bioethanol. Biodiesel comes from animal fats and vegetable oils or from the fermentation of renewable sources of sugar or starch, such as cassava, corn, sugar beet, sugar cane and wheat. Likewise, liquid natural gas is being used mainly in ferries and ships that make short trips (due to the lack of a global network of refueling points). On the other hand, the sector is also exploring more sustainable sources such as nuclear propulsion or the installation of renewable energies, although for example the installation of solar panels on board is still complex and can considerably affect the stability of the ship.
As in the automotive industry, the electric boat points to a possible great revolution in the sector, although it is true that this industry is more complex in its application. However, in recent years there has already been a growth in the production and purchase of electric leisure and small fishing boats, and other larger vessels are already testing complete or at least hybrid solutions that represent a before and after for the sustainability of the maritime industry.
4. Unmanned vessels
Although the term unmanned is more commonly associated with airspace (drones), the naval industry is also moving towards the idea of ships that do not require a pilot. Based on technologies such as artificial intelligence, there are already ferry companies, for example, that are operating short to medium distance routes with an autopilot.
As in any other sector, the need to renew and continue innovating for greater productivity and sustainability has become an indispensable requirement. Despite its long history, shipbuilding, advanced logistics in ports or transport of passengers and goods must follow the current path of constant innovation to preserve its competitiveness and keep abreast of developments and changes demanded by the global economy.