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Singapore incubates digital innovation and disruption

Thu 10 Jan 2019 by Ed Martin

Singapore incubates digital innovation and disruption
The 17 SPC start-ups will benefit from continued support from MPA and NUS Enterprise including access to funding, international markets, innovative technologies and maritime expertise (credit: Claritecs)

Collaboration between industry, academia and government is seeing Singapore take a leading role in maritime digital transformation

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, the National University of Singapore's entrepreneurial arm, have awarded Claritecs, SkyLab and Ocean Freight Exchange the third, second and first-place prizes, respectively, in the Pier71 Smart Port Challenge (SPC).

First-place winner Ocean Freight Exchange provides a platform to optimise vessel chartering using deep-learning AI. Skylab provides internet of things data logistics solutions and Claritecs’ offering is BunkerMAESTRO, an AI-enhanced software-as-a-service bunker tanker scheduling platform intended to provide bunker operators, terminals, ship agents and managers of receiving vessels with bunkering information oversight under one common platform. The platform uses machine learning and AI algorithms to optimally schedule bunker delivery jobs within a bunker operator’s fleet.

The SPC aims to connect maritime companies with technology startups and innovators to address key issues in Singapore’s maritime sector. It is one of several initiatives under the PIER71 programme aimed at developing a maritime entrepreneurial ecosystem in the port city-state.

MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said “MPA started the Smart Port Challenge in 2017 as part of our wider efforts to promote innovation and catalyse collaborations in the maritime sector.

“With the formation of PIER71 with NUS Enterprise this year, SPC returned stronger with a 45% increase in proposal submissions as compared with last year.

“We are pleased to see many innovative prototypes and will continue to provide opportunities for start-ups as we embrace new technologies, such as virtual reality, blockchain and artificial intelligence, that are transforming the maritime sector.”

“Strengthening Singapore’s maritime innovation ecosystem will help to develop the talent, accelerate new ventures and attract investments into the sector. This will play a crucial role in bringing Singapore’s maritime industry into the digital age and create exciting opportunities for growth,” said NUS President, Professor Tan Eng Chye.

NUS Enterprise chief executive Dr Lily Chan said “We have been fostering strategic partnerships to help bridge and provide platforms for start-ups to engage with the flagship industries.

“The maritime sector plays a crucial role in Singapore’s economy, but is known for being somewhat resistant to innovation and digitalisation.

“As such, it is heartening to see tech-savvy start-ups working closely with larger, well-established maritime corporates, to catalyse the digital transformation of the industry and create new opportunities for innovation-driven growth.”

122 proposals were received in response to 20 challenge statements identified in the areas of port operations, shipping and maritime services. 17 start-ups were shortlisted by MPA and NUS Enterprise to undergo an 8-week market and business model validation programme called Pier71 Accelerate.

Claritecs chief executive Wong Hong Lee said “Garnering the third place out of 122 entries globally for the PIER71 Smart Port Challenge provides solid validation to the BunkerMAESTRO concept, which we firmly believe will add value to Singapore’s US$25Bn bunker industry.”

“We expect BunkerMAESTRO to offer a 30% to 50% increase in work productivity; 15% to 30% increase in bunker tanker utilisation rate; and a 50% reduction in time spent for communication – allowing users to concentrate on addressing key issues and bringing in more revenue with the same amount of resources,” he added.

Letters of intent have been signed with nine Singapore-based bunker tanker operators and shipowners and about one-third of Singapore’s bunker tanker fleet will be involved as testbed candidates for BunkerMaestro in the first half of 2019.

As well as the S$10,000 (US$7,000), $5,000 and $3,000 prizes for the first, second and third-place winners, the 17 SPC start-ups will benefit from continued support from MPA and NUS Enterprise including access to funding, international markets, innovative technologies and maritime expertise.

Claritecs now plans to apply for MPA’s S$50,000 post-programme prototype development grant. “We look forward to sharing our technologies with stakeholders in the bunker supply chain to add value to their operations,” said Mr Wong.


Wärtsilä and MPA partner up to boost maritime innovation and R&D

Singapore’s reputation as a hub of digital innovation was further reinforced in 2018, with Wärtsilä choosing the city as a launchpad for several technological initiatives.

In April 2018, Wärtsilä formally established a partnership with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to promote maritime innovation and R&D. The partnership agreement covers digital acceleration, cyber-physical security, intelligent vessels and port operations.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Wärtsilä’s chief digital officer Marco Ryan and MPA chief executive Andrew Tan at the opening of the Singapore Maritime Technology conference to formalise the partnership.

Speaking at the signing of the MoU, Mr Ryan said “This partnership with MPA is a great example of how combining digitalisation, ecosystems thinking and collaboration will benefit the maritime industry and drive tangible value at pace.

“Our joint focus on innovation, cyber-physical security, intelligent vessels and port integration is not only exciting, but will help us both to accelerate our smart marine strategies.”

October 2018 saw the opening of Wärtsilä’s Singapore-based Acceleration Centre. Intended to promote innovation and collaboration between industry, academia and local partners, Wärtsilä described the centre’s opening as a key milestone following the partnership with MPA.

The Acceleration Centre’s inaugural project is the Wärtsilä IntelliTug, which aims to develop a harbour tug capable of autonomous navigation. Alongside MPA, Wärtsilä is working with PSA Marine, a Singapore-based marine services provider specialising in towage and pilotage.

The IntelliTug project will incorporate a new-to-market near-field wideband radar and real-time video analytics, along with a human-centric mission control system for close quarters supervision and alerting users on collision avoidance using adaptive route-planning capabilities. The project is scheduled to be tested on an existing tug in Singapore’s operational port during 2019.

Mr Ryan said “We want to help the industry improve by leveraging the use of automation technologies on ships to boost safety and efficiency, while at the same time augmenting the human’s role within the loop.

“This solution will empower tug masters by actively assisting the crew in different situations, allowing them to focus on critical tug operations while dynamically maintaining safe distances during navigation and preventing potential collisions.

“It will also give them additional decision-making support and the ability to work with their colleagues ashore via a real-time data connection.”

Wärtsilä also launched the International Maritime Cyber Centre of Excellence (IMCCE) in Singapore in October last year, in collaboration with Templar Executives, a London-based cyber security consultancy.

Comprising a Maritime Cyber Emergency Response Team (MCERT) and a cyber academy, the IMCCE is intended to act as a focal point for the maritime sector to drive cyber awareness and respond to cyber incidents.

The goal of the MCERT is to bring players from across the industry together to share knowledge and offer support collaboratively to counter cyber threats. The MCERT will provide expert advice and real-time support to members on cyber attacks and incidents, intelligence feeds from the global maritime community and others, combined with expert analysis, and a global service including support from a dedicated supplier framework.

Wärtsilä’s vice president of cyber security Mark Milford said “There are three main drivers for the maritime industry to collaborate in improving our cyber resiliency: the vast attack surface the maritime industry offers to cyber criminals; the inclusion of maritime into the critical national infrastructure of nation states and the pending cyber security regulation by the International Maritime Organisation in 2021.”

“It’s not a coincidence that the IMCCE is based in Singapore – it’s a country that is forward-leaning in cyber development and a very important location in the maritime ecosystem,” he added.


Maritime digital transformation showcased at Singapore event

The inaugural Maritime Digital Innovation Summit took place in Singapore on 14 and 15 November with speakers and delegates from Singapore, southeast Asia and further afield coming together to discuss pressing issues related to digitalisation in the maritime sector.

A range of topics were covered but strong trends throughout the two-day conference were cyber risk, additive manufacturing, autonomous shipping and how to increase the uptake of digital solutions.

The first day kicked off with Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI) president Abu Bakar Mohd Nor delivering the opening address. Noting the length of the downturn in the industry, Mr Bakar said “While we see positive signs, we cannot just rely on business as usual.

“Industry must seize more opportunities, especially in the area of innovation and capability improvement.”

He gave details of the Industry Transformation Programme being implemented by Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, which seeks to strengthen 23 key sectors of the country’s economy through setting out roadmaps known as ITMs for innovation and transformation and deepening partnerships between the public sector, government and industry. The maritime ITM is led by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, while there is also a marine and offshore engineering ITM being led by ASMI. “The whole idea is to achieve global leadership in smart marine and offshore engineering solutions,” Mr Bakar explained.

OSM Maritime Group chief technology officer Chakib Abi-Saab addressed what he sees as the elephant in the room when it comes to digitalisation. He said “One of the biggest challenges we face is that many technology leaders fail to understand the business side of their organisation.

“We go to the board of directors and the chief executive and we talk about technology: we talk about speed, we talk about backups.

“We do not talk about the bottom line, we do not talk about competitive advantages, and until we change that and start addressing technology in business terms that make sense for the business, we will not move forward.

“The maritime industry is a business, this is not an area where we allow technology because it’s cool,” he said.

Bureau Veritas’ global technology leader for smart ships Najmeh Masoudi presented the view from class on cyber security and smart shipping.

The morning closed with a panel discussion on increasing adoption of digital solutions between Group Nautical managing director Bhupesh Gandhi, Maritime Port Authority of Singapore director Kenneth Lim, Association of Marine Industries Malaysia honorary secretary Nazery Khalid, Rolls-Royce senior vice-president for concepts and innovation Oskar Levander and Asia Pacific Frost & Sullivan senior director Sanjay Singh.

One takeaway from this was that while digitalisation may be here to stay it must be balanced with the human factor, and that innovation is dependent on being able to change established mindsets. The conservative nature of the shipping sector was contrasted with the more relaxed approach to risk taken in the tech sector.

A factor that may increase demands was client requirements – charterers may impose requirements for certain technologies to be installed on vessels before they will consider chartering them.

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