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Surfing the Waves of Tech Innovation

The dawn of digitalisation is approaching; the future is now.

In recent years, much focus has been placed on the maritime industry’s transformation journey to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the challenges faced in this digital age.

We spoke to Dr Shahrin Osman, Regional Head of Maritime Advisory, and Director of the Maritime Decarbonisation & Autonomy Centre of Excellence at DNV GL, a classification society1 with 150 years of history and Mr Leon Yen, Founder and CEO of Threatspan, a maritime cybersecurity start-up, to find out more about the industry’s digital revolution and what this means for jobseekers.

A boon to efficiency and innovation

You might have heard of the saying, “Data is the new gold”, and in this digital era, DNV GL is certainly a proponent of this stance.

In 2018, the company debuted its open data platform, Veracity to facilitate secure connectivity and data sharing between industry players, driving business innovation. What’s more, Veracity also helps moderate new solutions and applications offered by DNV GL and other external organisations. With such an open channel of communication, the barriers to entry and capital expenditure are lowered, making it easier for maritime companies to embrace digital transformation.

“With the Veracity platform, customers will be able to receive updated and verified electronic certificates, reducing potential disruptions to their operations or time charter contracts.”

The Veracity platform facilitates a secure connection for maritime professionals to share insights and data, making it easier for companies to embrace digital transformation

DNV GL prides itself in continually finding new innovative ways to improve, spending 5% of its annual revenue on Research & Development (R&D), where a significant portion of their projects are related to digitalisation initiatives. The company’s significant investments in digitalisation bore fruit in the form of its 24/7 Direct Access to Technical Expert (DATE) service which has greatly improved customer support and internal efficiency.

An overview of DATE’s dashboard, which facilitates communication with maritime experts anytime and anywhere

“Through DATE, we have launched a series of digital services like electronic certificates and remote survey services. To date, we have completed 15,000 remote surveys and inspections globally since it was first introduced in October 2018. Our customers have benefited from effective and timely support for their technical difficulties in dealing with port states or other regulators globally,” says Dr Shahrin.

DNV GL’s smart and flexible digital services2 help shipowners, yards, suppliers and manufacturers stay compliant, reducing downtime while providing access to global expertise, boosting safety and quality.

Dr Shahrin Osman is in charge of shaping the maritime innovation ecosystem through industry collaborations by conducting academic research and consulting projects

Dr Shahrin pointed out that the advantages of these innovative digital solutions have never been more evident, especially now, as the world deals with the global COVID-19 pandemic. With person-to-person contact and international travel highly discouraged, these platforms enable companies to continue their operations remotely while maintaining safety and efficiency.

Dealing with the flip side of digitalisation

While technology has its host of benefits, it also comes with its own set of pitfalls.

Just like our personal computers, the high-tech systems in the maritime industry are susceptible to viruses and hijacking from malicious parties, with confidential corporate and personal information at stake. While the maritime industry’s efforts at digitalisation are yielding results, factors to counter such threats should also be taken into consideration.

“Cyber threats are very prevalent in the maritime sector today, primarily due to improved and expanding internet connectivity on board vessels. The industry at large is in the midst of digital transformation, so the increase in cyber risk is not surprising,” shares Leon.

Leon Yen manages the development of cybersecurity solutions, helping maritime and offshore firms achieve and maintain cyber resilience

Additionally, concerns about the unique attributes of vessel environments have been cited. Working on board a moving vessel brings about a new dimension for cybersecurity, with different considerations compared to normal enterprise security.

“A recent incident we observed first-hand involved a medium-sized ship management firm. The company saw the bridge systems on board several of its vessels infected with ransomware, resulting in them being deemed non-operational until the situation was brought under control.”

Threatspan aims to develop solutions to mitigate cyber threats through comprehensive cyber risk management. Founded in 2017, this start-up was a finalist at the 2018 Smart Port Challenge organised by the Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined at BLOCK 71 (PIER71).

Their solution for nautical resilience comes in two forms, the Tridens Platform and the Brizo Sensor. The Tridens Platform helps maritime enterprises bolster their capabilities in areas like cyber intrusion detection, resilience monitoring, cyber risk scoring and more – all in a streamlined fleet management console.

The Tridens Platform provides continuous security to reduce cyber-attacks for the company without affecting its digital transformation efforts

On the other hand, the Brizo Sensor provides continuous monitoring for vessel IT and Operational Technology (OT) networks in a subcompact form, making it more ideal for maritime environments.

Some features of the Brizo Sensor include network-based intrusion detection

The tech effect on jobs

Naturally, this shift toward digitalisation means that IT professionals will be sought after.

“There has been a lot of development in tech innovation in recent years. The Industrial Revolution 4.0, coupled with Information Technology, Operational Technology and a greater convergence with sensor technology and connectivity has generated many new opportunities and business models,” says Dr Shahrin, who foresees a demand for Computer Engineers and Data Scientists.
However, this doesn’t mean that you need to be an engineer or scientist to land a job in the future. Professionals such as Change Managers – those with strong business domain knowledge and technology application know-how – will also be critical in helping organisations with their transition to digital systems.

Leon echoes the same sentiments for professions in cybersecurity. With its many subfields like cyber risk management, risk scoring, penetration testing and security analytics, jobseekers don’t have to limit themselves to one aspect.

“Skills such as vessel penetration testing will increasingly become an in-demand skill set; their expertise and guidance will be needed in areas like marine surveying, marine insurance and other disciplines.”

Start-ups vs Corporates – which to join?

One common problem jobseekers face is deciding between joining an established company and a start-up. After all, both entities offer very different experiences.

Start-ups, for example, are known to be more agile in adapting to changes and requests. They have the benefit of being able to assess problems from fresh perspectives, potentially injecting new ideas to create solutions for this long-standing industry.

“Being at the tip of the spear in terms of tech innovation, maritime start-ups enable professionals to maintain agility in an industry that is traditionally slow-moving,” shares Leon.

While established companies have lengthier processes; what they lack in speed, they make up for with their wealth of experience and resources.

“DNV GL’s advantage is that we have deep domain knowledge on industry trends, developments and challenges which has been accumulated throughout the years. Not only are we a leading classification society, we are also independent experts in risk management globally,” states Dr Shahrin.

Though established maritime companies and start-ups come with their own pros and cons, they do offer one thing in common – exciting work that contributes to the industry’s digital transformation.

So, if getting to play a role in an evolution journey sounds like something you would derive satisfaction from, it’s time to seriously consider dipping your toes into the maritime sector. There really is no better time to join this dynamic industry that quite literally moves the world!

1. A classification society is similar to a standards institute which determines the guidelines for the maritime industry pertaining to maritime safety and pollution prevention.

2. Find out more about DNV GL’s digital services via this link.

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