The pandemic accelerates digitalization in shipping

The corona pandemic has hit shipping hard in many ways, but according to the Swedish Transport Agency’s new report on its effects, there is also a glimmer of light – the work on digitization has been accelerated.

Freight traffic had a relatively stable development last year, while it was worse for passenger traffic. For several months, the number of passengers was halved compared to 2019.

“We see that shipping companies are making heavy losses and many onboard employees have been notified, short-term laid off or become unemployed. It is above all the ferry and cruise traffic that has been hit the hardest, but also shipping companies that transport vehicles make large losses”, says Karin Fransson, section manager at the Maritime and Aviation Department at the Swedish Transport Agency, in a press release.

According to the report, there is a risk that the large losses will lead to price increases, which will affect the competitiveness of shipping. The environmental and sustainability work also suffers. The Swedish Transport Agency refers to the survey conducted by the European shipowners’ association ECSA among its members, which shows that almost half of them believe that their planned environmental initiatives are no longer possible.

“But in the long term, we still believe in so-called green investments, because it is a way for shipping to compete both in the market and against other modes of transport. This suggests that trends in environmental investments are something that will continue despite financial difficulties”, says Karin Fransson.

The trend that strengthened most during the pandemic, however, is that technological development and digitalization have been accelerated. Just like the rest of society, the stakeholders in shipping have had to adapt their operations to the new reality and have been forced to reduce the physical contact between people. According to the report, for example, the vast majority of ports have been forced to change routines for their daily operations. The Port of Gothenburg has minimized the number of people who must be on board ships during inspections and instead used digital solutions to be able to maintain an efficient workflow.

According to the report, acceptance of digital solutions has increased during the pandemic among Sweden’s ports. This indicates that the rapid technological development will probably continue even when the pandemic has subsided.

To the report: Sjöfartsmarknadens utmaningar – en rapport om effekter av pandemin covid-19

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