A glimpse of the inspiring people and stories of the maritime industry.

A New Breed of Talent in the Digital Age

The maritime industry is on a digital transformation journey and expects to create 5,000 new good jobs by 2025. To prepare their businesses for added emphasis on areas like data analytics, Internet-of-Things (IoT) and smart technology, maritime companies have already fired up their search for digitally-savvy candidates.

Chris Chung, Director of Ecosystem Development at Wärtsilä, and Poh Wan Han, Senior Executive of Strategic Planning, Research & Analytics at Jurong Port, tell us about how they see the digital wave rising in the maritime and port scenes.

Open Innovation Ecosystems at Wärtsilä

Chris oversees ecosystem development and strategic projects in Asia for Wärtsilä - a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets. It may sound vague to most of us but Chris is crystal clear on his role.

“It’s about bringing together the best of Wärtsilä with open innovation ecosystems - customers, partners, regulators, start-ups and academia to co-create, incubate, pilot and develop new business value. We work together to sift through the noise and making sure we create new and innovative solutions together to solve real challenges,” he says.

“Our projects have a number of common attributes. First and foremost, it needs to address a real problem faced by our customers, regulators or the industry as a whole. We need to make sure we are strategically aligned. Secondly, it’s also about making sure we have the right ingredients to drive positive innovation – can we play to strengths, pull together the best people, expertise research capabilities to the problem sustainably and unlock value?”
– Chris Chung, Director of Ecosystem Development at Wärtsilä

Once a crucial challenge has been identified to solve, they get right cracking on the work. Chris assembles a core team (what he calls a “Coalition of the Willing”) of cross domain experts and lines them up with academic researchers and regulators. The team then works hand in hand with the customer to deep dive into the real nitty-gritty aspects of the challenge.

Chris using Virtual Reality technology to collaborate with team members, enabling virtual presence inside a vessel without physically being there, reducing downtime, risk exposure, and enabling virtual collaboration around the world

Wärtsilä’s IntelliTug project is a prime example of a strategic project. As Singapore builds its next-generation port in Tuas, Chris notes that fundamentals like safety and efficiency are crucial success factors.

To align strategic goals and understand detailed port operations, the Wärtsilä team collaborates closely with PSA Marine, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), Lloyds Register and Technology Centre for Offshore & Marine Singapore (TCOMS). Together as co-creation partners, the group set out to enhance the capabilities of harbour tug masters, who work through different hours and weather conditions and guide ships through crowded ports and harbours.

The IntelliTug solution will use technology, including passage planning with collision avoidance, sensor fusion for enhanced situational awareness, virtual anchoring with guard circle to enable enhanced safety, to help Singapore’s Tug Masters navigate more safely and effectively.

Integration of Data and Operations at Jurong Port

For Wan Han at Jurong Port (JP), she is part of a young Strategic Planning, Research & Analytics (SRA) team that moves JP forward in its vision to be the Next Generation Multipurpose Port.

“SRA is charged with the integration and analysis of data, which JP has massive amounts of, for both long-term strategic planning and near-term business decision-making,” she explains.

Wan Han, with Jurong Port (JP)'s steel coils. In fact, JP is Singapore's main steel port and the first multipurpose port in the world to introduce customised side loaders for improved steel handling

Wan Han is intrigued by the potential benefits to be reaped from more effective use of the data on hand. As an example, she cites how various business units can tap on the insights generated by these data to maximise profitability. By combining a host of data such as workers’ login timestamps and work orders completed, JP could track the utilisation rate of cargo handling equipment to maximise efficiency every month. “What’s important is to make sure that we can utilise data efficiently to help us monitor the asset utilisation for better resource allocation,” Wan Han said.

In JP, resource allocation is one of the many roles data plays a part in. As a strategic tool for JP’s operations, data is used to derive customer insights to drive proactive customer management, provide predictive analysis such as throughput forecast, and develop real-time optimisation of port operations.

“We engage different divisions within JP, such as Finance and various other business units to explore how we can analyse data across business functions to come up with good, interesting insights for the company,” Wan Han says, lighting up.

Working as One Maritime Singapore Team

The complex network of the port’s business units and operations could be confusing and even intimidating to a layman initially, Wan Han admits, but through her daily work, she has picked up much on how it all comes together, and it helps that JP enjoys a familial and tight-knit culture.

Wan Han poses for a group photo with her colleagues after a prawning session at ORTO

“Our work involves delivering relevant and accurate metrics to multiple departments through the creation of dashboards. We are required to understand each department’s needs thoroughly and advise them accordingly based on data availability, suitability and consistency with other reported metrics. If there is a need for collection of new data, we then need to ascertain if our existing systems can integrate the new data or if there’s a need to upgrade our system.”

In addition to serving business users, Wan Han also leads on the technical front by liaising with the developers on the implementation of the improved dashboards. As such, she is required to be proficient in both the business and technical lingos.

Likewise, Chris from Wärtsilä is finding himself drawn into the rich, layered network of the maritime and port businesses too. His daily calendar from workshops with customers and partners, formal meetings with various government authorities, hosting international delegations and country ambassadors, to meeting with technology investors and incubators.

On the research and academia perspective, he highlights the importance of partnering with institutes of higher learning and maritime organisations. In Singapore, these include TCOMS, National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Polytechnic (SP), as well as the government and industry organisations like MPA, Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) and the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF).

“There are so many opportunities sprouting up for Maritime Singapore,” he muses. “It’s all about making sure we can engage multiple groups of people across the business, with their different skills and disciplines. We have been bringing on associate interns in all kinds of areas: cybersecurity, service design and data engineering.”

“We always try to open up positions for passionate people to come join us.”

All Hands (and Skills) on Deck

What then, did Chris study in school?

He started out with a degree in Information Systems Engineering, before focusing on Change Management and Marketing for his post-graduate programme. In his career journey, he has experience in technology innovation across various sectors including telecommunications and energy, before he joined Wärtsilä. But one thing has remained constant through the years.

“I’ve always loved technology, from a human perspective – its positive impact and potential risks that have to be addressed or mitigated,” he confesses. “It fascinates me how we can apply and deploy technology in the real world, with real impact on our everyday lives.”

While he may have been in the role for a year already, Chris still faces fresh challenges in his work because of the multi-national and multi-cultural environment.

“One time, I had to lead a group of 37 people of 11 nationalities speaking 24 languages, ranging from domain experts to fresh graduates. Naturally, everyone had different skills and backgrounds. Right from the get-go, you know you’re going to get different perspectives expressed in different ways,” he shared.

Being a facilitator and leader has not been easy but Chris’ experiences have been invaluable in developing deep insights and appreciation to cultural differences and softer nuances. Soft skills, he noted, are as important as technology and engineering skills in strategic projects.

At Wärtsilä, Chris works with a myriad of specialists across different functions and cultures everyday

“My role is to work with a diverse team of amazing people to establish strong common vision and goals. We focus on looking at different angles and together, we come up with useful solutions that are safe, efficient, and can be sustainably deployed to solve a real world problem. It is important for me to have a holistic view of the strategy, technology and data and how we architect them to form a solution.”

Likewise, young data analyst Wan Han has found herself exercising her strategic thinking in her work.

Having studied Engineering Systems Design and specialised in Supply Chain Management at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Wan Han has always been comfortable with numbers.

“I was trained in science-focused Engineering, so that means using numbers in probability analysis, Stochastic modelling, and data analytics,” she explains.

While Wan Han found an interest in probability and statistics, her first contact with the maritime industry was in school, when a professor described his previous work in the industry.

“He would talk about how the optimal path could be calculated to get a shipment of fresh grapes from Chile to China while keeping them fresh,” she recalls.

Wan Han later went on to work at a global shipping company where she was responsible of import and export container documentation. But she realised that what she wanted was a holistic understanding of the supply chain of the cargo she was facilitating and how everything came together at the port.

That was how she found her way to JP and was given the opportunity to be attached to different departments where her scope had let her board vessels and climb quay cranes that were almost 45 metres high to understand her work better.

Jurong Port operates the world's largest common user cement terminal, handling more than 90% of Singapore's bulk cement imports and driving the local construction industry

“It was an eye-opening experience,” she shared. “Seeing cement vessels unloading thousands and thousands of tonnes of cargoes is just fascinating because it never seems to end, and the ships and port equipment used are huge!”

At Jurong Port, Wan Han is now able to apply what she learnt in school and also picked up new skills along the way, using tools like QlikView, R programming (and Excel of course) for her day-to-day work.

Towards a Brighter, Smarter Maritime Future

Asked about the future of the industry, both Chris and Wan Han emphatically agreed on two points: technology would help everyone in maritime, and autonomous does not equate to being unmanned.

Chris explains, “Many technologies are going to help us amplify our human capabilities and make better decisions. This means helping or enhancing our people in the loop, not taking them out.”

“Just like your modern-day cars, we have features and functionalities that have become part of our everyday routine. Things like adaptive cruise control are so intuitive, they have become invisible. But what is clear and visible is the human driver and their critical ability to make decisions.”
– Chris Chung, Director of Ecosystem Development at Wärtsilä

“Today, our ports are 4G-enabled, with different types of satellite connectivity supporting vessels, services, and information flow. Singapore is a good testbed to pioneer new and exciting solutions, because we have all the information, expertise and a very proactive and forward-looking government.”
– Poh Wan Han, Senior Executive of Strategic Research & Analytics at Jurong Port

Wan Han notes that the port is going digital, and that coding and scripting in various tech languages would be useful skills to pick up and this bright and energetic executive is already equipping herself with developer skills.

Chris concurs on Wan Han’s approach to life and work. “I’ve learnt from a mentor that it’s important to know where you’re going, and to have a plan to get yourself there. It’s important to learn new things every day. Confucius himself said it best – you never stop learning!”

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The Maritime Singapore Connect (MSC) Office is a national initiative, supported by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, to profile the maritime industry and connect students and jobseekers with the multiple pathways into the industry.

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