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New technologies and the changing face of maritime recruitment

Posted by: Matthew Spells

New technology is on the way for the marine industry, 2018 has already seen some owner-operators using the latest IT and digitalisation technologies to capture, share and act upon their data, including ‘Cloud’-based solutions to make data accessible from anywhere and with anybody within their organisations. But this would appear to be just the tip of the iceberg, with talk about deep ‘machine’ learning, artificial intelligence, Internet of things (IoT), autonomous vessels, virtual reality, drones, robotics and cyborg crew, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had entered the set of a Hollywood science-fiction movie. However, current industry buzz is predicting that these new technologies are set to change the face of shipping. If the role of technology in the marine industry is changing, it seems inevitable that roles for people and the skills that the industry require in their personnel is also going to change in the future too.

New computer capabilities to better understand data

The capabilities of computers and computer software to ‘learn’ and over time, to improve task led performance, without the need for programming also known as deep or ‘machine’ learning, is being recognised by IT industry heavy-weights including, Amazon and Google, who have been exploring these ‘deeper’ levels of machine learning to enhance their understanding of the sectors in which they operate, which has led them to show more interest in shipping and how they can transfer these technologies to the sector. ‘Machine’ learning technologies are making it possible for marine and maritime owner-operators to better understand their customers. Furthermore, the Internet of things (IoT) – which, uses the internet to interconnect uniquely identifiable, electronic devices, software, sensors and actuators - is increasingly utilising deep learning computers and high-volume data analytics for monitoring onboard machinery for performance management and predictive maintenance purposes, and is making in-roads into shipping with liner operators such as the Maersk Group, who are leading the way in using the technology for container tracking and reefer monitoring.

The future for autonomous technology 

Using ‘machine’ learning is also being investigated as an application to enable autonomous surface vessels to navigate without human interaction, using intelligent algorithms and IoT technology to provide onboard computers with problem solving skills and predictive capabilities which, can be used in images, video, and audio recognition. Construction on the world’s first unmanned cargo ship begins this year, the Yara Birkeland which, will trial the use of autonomous surface vessel technologies including robotics, to test the boundaries of operation for a future generation of unmanned ships. A recent report by the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers suggests that assisted transportation using autonomous vessels is in fact a realistic technology trend for 2018, with these vessels providing greater assistance to onboard crew operations. Types of flying autonomous craft or ‘drones’ are already commonly used in many industries including construction, where drones are used to provide surveyors with information on difficult to reach areas on buildings and structures. Using drone technology on ships is not common at present, but as commercial models make more robust models, needed  to meet the requirements of maritime applications, including delivering parcels to ships close to coastlines and navigating in ice conditions to provide more accurate information to masters, this is likely to become a vital part of day-to-day operations.

Virtual reality is virtually here

The first commercial virtual reality (VR) training programs are expected to be available to market in 2018 but that is just the beginning of the potential uses for this technology which, has its roots in computer games. In future VR could have a role to play in ship design and engineering including the evaluation of ship interiors, piping requirements, electrical networks and the monitoring of personnel locations during emergencies. On cruise ships, offshore vessels and commercial shipping, VR has potential for use in passenger and crew entertainment. To further enhance onboard crew safety, operator-owners are beginning to investigate developments in cyborg crew - wearable technology – which, can be used to monitor heart rates, accumulated steps or sugar levels etc, in real-time, to ensure the health and wellbeing of crews.

These developing technologies will no doubt begin to have an impact on shipping and the people and skills needed both for offshore and land-based roles within the industry. The WRS Marine division is working closely with clients to ensure that our team of industry specialist recruiters are in a position to source candidates who will meet the constantly evolving technological needs of the marine industry now, and in the future. The WRS Marine division, operate within the offshore support, shipping, onshore marine, survey & inspection and subsea & ROV sectors, we can offer our clients support with: 

Candidate sourcing and attraction 
Contract and permanent recruitment 
Crew Management 
Global Mobility 

If you wish to discuss a potential staffing project with our team, or if you are looking for your next move in the marine industry, please visit our website or email us on

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