Sailing into the Future: The Promise of Smart Ships

Sailing into the Future: The Promise of Smart Ships

Mar. 22 2023


“Smart” is a common buzzword often tacked on to tech that seems less than worthy of the moniker. It sounds slick and modern, but few of us understand what it really means. As ships too become smarter, Bureau Veritas (BV) is here with Opsealog to explain the concept and its implications for the maritime industry.

In this edition of the Shaping a Better Maritime World podcast, we explore the exciting and rich subject of smart ships, including:

  • How smart ships can address the challenges of the maritime energy transition
  • How to select digital solutions for smarter shipping
  • What lies ahead for smart ship development and innovation

Arnaud Dianoux, Co-founder and Managing Director of Opsealog, and Vincent Joly, Smartship Manager at BV, join us to take a closer look.

To start with, what is a smart ship?

Vincent: Good question! There is no commonly agreed upon definition for smart ships. It’s too limiting to say it means autonomous ships – and maybe too broad to talk about electronics and sensors.
At BV, we define “smart ships” as a combination of function and objective. This covers the digitalization of a ship’s systems and of the onboard crew’s operations and processes, as well as the ship-management and operations onshore.


How can smart ships move the energy transition forward?

Arnaud: The energy transition represents an enormous global challenge for the maritime industry. It will take time and money – really a huge investment – to get the new building and technology in place to help the industry move forward.

The key starting point of this transition is to measure what we can now, so that we can get an accurate picture of the vessel’s operating profile and find a clear way to make progress. It’s logical really – you wouldn’t start a diet without knowing your current weight.

The good news is that smart ships can help – connectivity is improving, so more data can be exported in real time. Now we need to digitize data to be able to capitalize on it.

What should owners consider when making their ships smarter?

Vincent: Before anything is developed, they must know where they want to start. There are so many questions to ask at this stage: What are the primary objectives? Should I buy a solution from the market or develop something in-house? What data do I already have, do I need more, and how is it accessed?

Arnaud: Ship owners are in a challenging phase right now, one of experimentation. They’re under pressure from regulators to make changes, but they may not see a clear distinction between the different solutions on the market. A key consideration for them will of course be cost, though I truly believe the cost of the energy transition should not fall only on the owner.

Some owners may want to find one solution that can fix everything, but that doesn’t really exist. Smart shipping technology is more like an ecosystem of components – and people. The hardware provider must collaborate with the software provider and the data integration team, for example. It must be understood that this is a combination of expertise, and it represents a long-term investment.