Veson Nautical’s 2023 maritime technology conference has come to a close, and we are returning from Athens, Greece with a surplus of special memories and gratitude for our global client community.

ONCOURSE 2023 was a gathering of nearly 300 professionals, including operators, owners, commodity traders, and oil & gas experts, as well as technology and platform providers. It provided us all with a unique opportunity to connect with other maritime experts, openly discuss industry-wide issues, and collaborate on strategies from different perspectives. We were fortunate to hear from 30+ speakers and panelists, half representing Veson and half industry professionals along various parts of the supply chain. These included industry leaders from companies like Fednav, Cargill, Marathon Petroleum, NYK Line, NORDEN, Sedna, RightShip, ZeroNorth, Alpha Ori Technologies, Marcura, Coach Solutions, and StormGeo.

Over the course of the two-day event, participants shared their insights into data and technology strategies to address industry challenges such as data integrity and standardization, regulatory compliance, operational efficiency, system connectivity, and more. Here are some of the key questions and takeaways from our discussions on maritime technology:

1.) How are maritime professionals navigating today’s complex, rapidly evolving, and often siloed technology landscape?

As more technology solutions enter the maritime space to support its digitalization, industry players are grappling with how to unite their tech stack into a cohesive ecosystem that best supports their unique needs. There is also the question of what technology solutions and trends to invest in and how to optimize them, be it the buzz of automating with AI or the challenge of establishing standards across systems. Connectivity and context prove to be key themes.

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Laurent Reit, Vice-President, Technology and Digital Transformation, Fednav Limited described how they distinguish between what to do in-house and what to outsource to strategic tools and systems:

We have a core team, a very small, very efficient team that can do analytics. We then extend that team with external consultants, partners, and outside data. […] Why would I do it in house? As long as my internal team is specific, why wouldn’t I grab the best data and processes out there?

When asked about the potential use cases of AI at Fednav, Laurent added:

We’re a shipping company, we’re not a software company. So, we’re going to use dedicated tools to provide the level of service and AI understanding that we need. We are still in the early stages of experimenting with AI, but we are approaching it strategically and starting small.

The need for advanced collaboration and integration between systems is clear. This was the premise for the Veson Partner Network, which facilitates native integrations between the Veson IMOS Platform and other tools you rely on. Sigrid Teig, Commercial Director – PortLog, Marcura sheds light on this point:

We are way past integrations that mechanically push or pull data from one interface into another. Instead, we are moving towards truly harnessing the data within each platform by pooling it for contextual insights. Different tech stacks and user constituents require fast moving solutions that are connected.

Pelle Sommansson, Chief Growth Officer, ZeroNorth pointed out how standardization and connectivity go hand in hand, saying:

The industry needs to arrive at some consensus about how to standardize information, which we don’t currently have. At ZeroNorth, they learned early on that it’s about much more than a one-way integration, but rather two and three way integrations. These more complex integrations make having standards even more important to mitigate confusion.

2.) What are the building blocks of a strong data foundation?

Through our many discussions at ONCOURSE and beyond, we are seeing the increasingly central role that data plays in managing and moving the world’s commodities and fleets. We know that data is a critical to operations, and we know that there is plenty of it in the maritime industry, but we also know that it is useless unless we can action on it. The key is to leverage systems and processes that produce relevant, high-integrity data in a standardized and contextual way.

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Timely, accurate information that can be easily shared across internal stakeholders is the crux of a strong data foundation. Rene Greiner, Data and Digital Lead, Cargill shared this about the importance of contextual data at Cargill:

We have to orchestrate an ecosystem of truth. All of this has to be brought together, so you can have a good clean data stack for the future.

Lisa McCord, Director, Commercial Marine at Marathon Petroleum Company reiterated the importance of high-quality data, saying:

We’re better with how we put data in, getting everyone to understand that quality data input is so important. Our priority is to streamline processes and do the back casting to understand if we made the right decisions to improve future outcomes.

We at Veson understand the impact that accurate, relevant, and validated data can have on your commercial and environmental success, which is why we continue to advance our data offerings with Q88, Oceanbolt, and VesselsValue. Alex Adamou, VP, Data Science & Analytics, Veson Nautical said this in a conversation about the role of data science in the evolution of Veson’s suite of products:

When it comes to optimization, you can start with a single voyage and then extend that to a sequence of voyages for a single vessel and extend that even further to a fleet of vessels. The optimization problems get harder and more layered as you go up that hierarchy, but the gains you can make are arguably larger and larger.

3.) How are industry professionals strategizing for decarbonization and regulatory changes like EU ETS?

With 2024 on the horizon, maritime players are anticipating the implications of increasing regulatory complexity, such as how CII ratings will feed into agreements and how to account for the expenses and manage the risk that will be associated with the EU ETS. Despite lingering logistical unknowns, one thing is for sure: decarbonization is and will continue to be a focus.

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We heard from Christian Fleischer, Head of Sales Environmentals, EEX about the political landscape, emissions markets, and admission options and requirements surrounding the upcoming EU ETS regulation:

Players from the shipping sector can access the EU ETS directly or indirectly, be it through an exchange membership, brokers or intermediaries, or banks. There are many important aspects to consider, such as the extent of your compliance obligation, cash sensitivity, preference for cleared activity, the fees and effort required, and more.

See the full EEX presentation on EU ETS here.

While we can’t predict the future of decarbonization in maritime, we can take immediate steps to factor it into daily decisions. Jon Lane, Senior Manager, Sustainability, RightShip said this when asked about the critical focuses for decarbonization in the next 12 to 18 months:

In terms of the short-term measures we can take from next year through 2030, we’ll of course have EU ETS and CII to get a handle on. Additionally, it’s all about getting those efficiency gains locked in for vessels so that we are prepared for the transition to those alternative low and zero carbon fuels. It’ll be about looking to new tech and advancing the data we have around decarbonization efforts so we can understand the impact and help industry players make informed decisions.

Thomas Hechmann, Growth Director, Coach Solutions shared this sentiment on change management in a discussion on decarbonization in maritime shipping:

One of the biggest industry challenges in terms of decarbonization is not so much technology development but the mindset shift and incentivization that is required to create change at the day-to-day level.

Asako Teruki, Executive Officer, NYK Business Systems noted decarbonization as one of the most pressing industry challenges for which no adequate solution currently exists, stating:

Decarbonization is the biggest challenge we are facing as an industry. We have an obligation and responsibility to society to make considerate decisions for the future.

For more on how NYK Line is leveraging data for value creation and standardization, read this two-part Veson interview.

ONCOURSE 2023 marked a significant milestone in our journey, being Veson’s 20-year anniversary and undoubtedly our most successful client event to date. It provided an exceptional platform for us to engage in thoughtful conversations with industry leaders, expanding our collaboration as we tackle the industry’s most pressing challenges and future priorities.

A recurring theme that echoed throughout ONCOURSE was the growing importance of data within maritime platforms, with a clear consensus emerging around the industry’s need for a single, trusted source of truth. Our clients emphasized their requirement for sophisticated solutions capable of operating in a timely and contextual way, extracting relevant data and applying standardized, customizable rules. This is a key focus area for Veson as we work to ensure our product roadmap is closely aligned with the evolving data needs of the industry.

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all participants for their invaluable contributions. These conversations don’t stop here; we are dedicated to sharing this wealth of knowledge with the broader industry. We firmly believe that sustained improvements across the maritime supply chain depend on universal adoption of emerging technologies and clean datasets. Together, we are charting a course towards a brighter maritime future.