As a big investor in new technology, the Wilhelmsen group has trialled and adopted products of the many tech companies it has invested in.
Group chief executive Thomas Wilhelmsen said the new technologies are working, and the benefits of using them is being felt.
Agency by Air is a project that the company’s agency business has developed together with Singapore-based Skyports Drone Services, using the latter’s cargo drones to ferry supplies and equipment to vessels anchored offshore Singapore and negating the need for an agent to make multiple visits by launch.
“It saves money and is less risky,” said Wilhelmsen, who believes there are a lot of interesting opportunities related to agency by air that have yet to be exploited.
3D printing is another area where the Wilhelmsen group has been “dabbling our toes” for a long time, according to Wilhelmsen. The company has a joint venture with Thyssenkrupp that produces on-demand engine parts, without having to go through the time-consuming and costly storage, shipping, customs and receiving processes.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, allows suitable components to be fabricated near the vessel location with a short lead time.
“We didn’t have any competence around it, but we saw the potential that it may have for the industry, the ability to get a product to the market without having it stored all over the world so that the lead time to users could be cut down,” Wilhemsen said.
“The 3D printers have the technology, but they don’t have the global infrastructure, nor necessarily the customers. We, on the other hand, have an international infrastructure of offices, physical presence and competence, and customers. This is an example of where we could potentially be a good fit with a technology provider or someone with a solution within that field. We come in and offer something different to the equation.”
Various AI data tools that have been used on board various Wilhelmsen-managed ships are estimated to have resulted in a $7m reduction in fuels costs with a corresponding reduction in emissions. Wilhelmsen believes this has the ability to improve tenfold.
“When you have been able to prove that technology does actually provide the solution and you have a landmark customer who is adopting this, then it is easier rolling this out and onboarding new customers,” he said.
However, the chief executive highlighted that one general issue that came out during trials was the poor connectivity between ships and shore. He reiterated that this was one area that needs to be improved.
“Without real-time data we can’t really act on it, but by being able to gather this data in more real time and get the layer of AI on top, you modular this in a different way where it can actually gain those savings,” he concluded.