In Shipping, where will the next technological step change come from?

“You know, I have been in shipping a long time. And the only thing that has changed over the last 20 years is that we used to use telex, now we send emails. Everything else has stayed the same.” Said an old colleague of mine, a couple of years ago.

I frequently wondered why that was so until I finally came across the concept of the Step Change. It states that progress in a field tends to be enabled by developments in technology. How the motor car was enabled by not just the development of the internal combustion engine but also the organizational step change of the Production Line that Henry Ford pioneered.

And here is my take on shipping’s technological step changes. In shipping, the step changes happen not only on the technological side, but also on norms that people adopt for their operations.

Initially, the Captain was all-powerful. There was no way for a message to be passed in a timely manner between ship and its home base. Rather than have the ship wait for weeks for an instruction, Ship Masters were empowered with extensive powers and responsibilities to make decisions.

With the advent of instantaneous methods of communication such as telephone calls and telex, Shore-side management started getting involved extensively in the planning and management of port calls. By and large, managing port calls centrally was an improvement.

With this technological step change, history has shown that the behavioral step change tends to follow. What will drive this behavioral change is deft management of change and packaging the technology in a palatable and useable manner. Ohceans is excited to be at the forefront of this wave of technological and organizational step change.

What do you think the future holds for work in shipping?

Can you date some of these changes over time? Do you remember the times of yesteryear where things were different? Please do share anecdotes and pictures!

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