Three companies and a common message
At an international press briefing at Hamburg's new Virtual Reality Headquarters (VRHQ) DNV GL stood side-by-side with ship owner Hapag-Lloyd and Hamburger Hafen Logistik AG to show how to apply the latest technology to make business safer, smarter and more cost-efficient.
If you ask DNV GL Maritime's Director Approval Rasmus Stute to sum up three years of implementing drones in ship surveys, his answer is clear: "We didn't only find out that it’s fun to fly drones, but that there's a real business benefit in using them,“ he said at the press briefing.
Video coverage presented to the group of about 20 international journalists revealed how DNV GL is already using drones to measure the thickness of steel plates at a height of 30 meters, making extensive staging and the manual drilling of holes redundant. Stute said he was very confident that a rising number of clients will soon see the great advantages of using the new technology as they boost safety and save time and costs of surveys.
The press briefing organized with Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG and Hapag-Lloyd gave journalists a hands-on experience of the digital world: The event took place at the new Virtual Reality Headquarters (VRHQ) which will officially open next year and is situated at the heart of Hamburg's historical Speicherstadt warehouse district. Here, where the smell of coffee in the streets is reminiscent of a century-old trade heritage, reporters got the exclusive chance to take a virtual reality flight across Hamburg and take a glimpse of the future of DNV GL ship surveys with the help of VR headsets.
Looking ahead, Dr. Christian Cabos, DNV GL Maritime's Head of Department Innovation, told journalists how autonomous drones are set to revolutionize ship surveys even further. He said he was confident that the industry would find ways for autonomous drones to successfully navigate complex vessel compartments, while they may even be able to carry out surveys independently with the help of artificial intelligence one day, he added. This would not only lead to a reduced cost level and less interruptions of ship operations, but also enhance safety for the surveyor as entry into tanks and narrow compartments would not be needed anymore.
The terminal operator and logistics company Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG, meanwhile, is using digitalization to better manage the rising number of ultra-large vessels arriving at the port. Jan Bovermann, HHLA's Head of Digital Corporate Development, gave the example of the Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center the company is operating jointly with Eurogate. While the center's main task is to coordinate feeder traffic at the port, it is also using all available data to inform larger ships on the ideal passage speed for their respective berth window. "I am not aware of any other port doing this," Jan Bovermann said.
HHLA is also preparing terminals for the arrival of driverless trucks. The company has recently signed a contract with MAN to trial autonomous driving technology on a 70km stretch of a motorway and a Hamburg container terminal. Bovermann said he expects the first autonomous truck to call at the HHLA gates by the end of the second quarter of 2020.
Rounding off the event was Dr. Ralf Belusa, Managing Director Digital Business Transformation at Hapag-Lloyd, who mapped out how the container carrier is using agile software development and a 20-people strong incubation unit to re-invent itself and boost customer experience. Whether it's drones and the Internet of Things or disruptive players such as Amazon, the maritime industry mustn't be fearful of digitalization, Belusa said, but instead embrace new technology. His statement summed up well what DNV GL, HHLA and Hapag-Lloyd have in common despite their very different business models: The three partners show great willingness to learn and share knowledge in order for them to become more integrated and fit for the digital world and provide smarter services to their customers.