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Automation and digital transformation in maritime

Welcome to our page on digitisation, automation and digital transformation

Marcura has been enabling our customers to digitally transform their key processes since Day 1, in 2001.
Each of our 8 maritime solutions achieves this in its field.
On this page, I’ve brought together some key information and resources on this subject.
David Hardy

David Hardy
Group Marketing Director

Survey results: Process automation vs digital transformation

Is process automation the less glamorous relation to the highly fashionable digital transformation?

We don’t believe so!

And, actually, nor do you.

In our recent survey, the evaluation of the benefits of automation came in only a tiny degree below those of digital transformation (84% vs 80%).

And of course, both evaluations are high ratings.

To read more on this subject, please read our new Guide – see the bottom of this page.

I had a chat with George Tsougkranis, one of our digital transformation gurus, on automation, digitalisation and digital transformation at Marcura and DA-Desk

Here’s a summary of our conversation.

George Tsougkranis
SVP, Business & Operational Transformation

David: In less than 30 seconds! What’s the difference between digitisation, digital transformation and automation?

George: Automation is about using some form of technology to change and improve a process to become more productive, so you save time and money.

Digitisation is about taking an analogue process or piece of information and turning it into digital.

Digital transformation is about taking a process, a business or an entire industry and re-inventing it.

David: Can we dig into that, starting with digitisation?

George: Digitisation focuses on information: how do we get a handwritten or physical document, scan it, process it, and extract information out of it?

Digitisation is often about unstructured information. So we’re talking about invoices, medical records. We digitise them to be used, and viewed, in further processes down the line.

So digitisation is eliminating completely the need for the physical form itself – eliminating all that paper from your desk.

David: One of the things you said to me before, in connection with your job at DA-Desk, is how we’ve succeeded with doing exactly that with DA-Desk – the DA-Desk process is 100% paper free.

George: Yes. There is not a single piece of document, physical piece of document that is being delivered among our different stakeholders and users.

So the agent and the ship operator: they deal with digital only because DA-Desk has digitised the disbursement account documents in the first place.

David: Now let’s do the easy one, automation.

George: Automating a business process involves using some form of technology to do a repetitive task in a better way…. to save time, effort, and money.

David: And automation has been around for a very long time.

George: Yes, It doesn’t mean that automation has to be done in a digital way.

Let me give you the example of the industrial revolution.

The textile industry, in the 18th century, what did they do? They created machines and those machines were able to do a persons’ job without taking a lunch break or sleeping.

This is clearly automation but not digitisation.

They took a process that was done by a person and they automated it. Using cutting edge technology, at least at the time!

Marcura | Digital transformation in maritime since 2001

Marcura now has 8 solutions.

They all serve to automate, digitise and transform processes for our customers.

In this super short video, get a flavour of Marcura.

David: Moving on to digital transformation.

George: Now when we talk about digital transformation, it’s about utilising technology to significantly enhance either corporate process or business process or even create completely new business models.

David: I love your Netflix example of digitisation and digital transformation.

George: Traditionally, you rented videotapes from the video store.

Physical format. You were going there, you were picking up and you were viewing at home.

Then it changed: DVDs came along. You still have to go rent it (or buy it). That was the digitisation of the information and it was in a completely different format. From analogue to digital format.

But then the revolution that actually Netflix brought – digital transformation – is that you did not need to go to the physical store anymore.

It streams straight to your TV, your laptop, your phone or whatever device you’re using.

This happened also with music (vinyl -> CD -> Spotify) or books, and it’s happening around the globe with many other industries.

David: What is the relationship between automation and digital transformation?

George: Automation and digital transformation are very related because they both talk about business processes, not about the information anymore. We’re talking about processes and models of work.

A digital transformation initiative will involve automation projects within it, as you’ll often optimise processes as part of digital transformation. But, digital transformation is larger in scope and it touches upon people, systems and processes, to deliver a wider and broader impact.

David: So digital transformation seems to be the sexy thing everyone is talking about but automation has been around for hundreds of years, as per your textiles example.

So I assume you’d say digital transformation is more valuable to companies?

George: Obviously they both are important.

They both have operational efficiencies, they both boost performance.

There are lots of opportunities still to adopt automation, right now, today.

It doesn’t mean that we have to change and revolutionise the industry in every bit of the process.


There are things that we just need to automate. There’s no point in going beyond that.

There are some processes where it only makes sense to automate and not transform.

Also it’s easier, quicker and less risky, generally, to automate than to transform.

David: All these categories and definitions can get confusing!

George: Yes, in my opinion, the customer does not really care about the “how”.

They care about the results.

For example, most of DA-Desk’s automation is done in the back end, and customers are totally unaware of it, unless we take them through it.

The customer does not care about definitions, just results and us keeping our promises to them.

David: So, let’s turn to DA-Desk now for a while… it’s your solution.

Which processes are automated on behalf of our customers, in DA-Desk?

George: Yes, DA-Desk is great example of automation.

The first one is really simple: we highlight clearly in our platform the differences between the PDA and the FDA, and enable the operator to see those differences.

This is all done via automation and is clearly shown to the operator in our user interface.

The second one is DAVE.

David: What’s DAVE?

George: DAVE = DA-Desk Validation Engine.

Even before any cost differentials are shown to the customer, we check 100% of our customers’ PDAs and FDAs to see if we can identify any cost issues.

How? Using our proprietary automation tool, DAVE.

DAVE has thousands of rules in order to identify opportunities for our customers, for rebates, discounts and any other kind of savings from their port calls.

So for example, there are specific rules in Spain that if you are calling this port, you only have to pay this fee once a year.

If you call this port again within six months or within a year, you don’t have to pay for that again. And obviously the agent might not know about this or he might not know that you have called before.

To do this checking in previous years, before automation, we (or the ship operator) actually had team members going through this, they had their rulebook, they knew what happens in that port and they were trying to identify issues..

Now, DAVE automates it – which means it’s done automatically, quickly and works 100% of the time.
It’s spot on for quality, so this is delivering a lot of value for our customers.

It’s always working, always on.

David: Final automation example in DA-Desk please.

George: We are also doing compliance checks in an automated way.

So the agent, the vendors, the operator, the vessel, all of these things are automatically being checked against our internal systems. We have a compliance system and we are actually checking all these entities for compliance in case there are any hit in a sanctioned list or anything that we have to raise during this transaction.

So these are in a nutshell, the processes that are automated and digitised in DA-Desk right now.

But rest assured, we’re working on many more. This is actually my job!

We’re working on a lot of things that will further digitalise the business and will add incremental value to our customers.

To identify the opportunities, I talk to a lot with our customers – it’s the key part of the process for me to have these ongoing conversations.

David: Any tips on how to succeed in the digital journey?

George: Many digital transformation projects fail because they don’t have a realistic roadmap. They think that they can go from zero to 100 in one or two years.

It’s just not going to work. The mentality itself of the people needs more time to change. It’s not the technology that is going to hold me back. It’s the people.

So one approach is to start with the simpler items, automation and digitisation before thinking about digital transformation.

Try to take baby steps, at least one step at a time, figure out where you want to be next.

About George

George Tsougkranis
SVP, Business & Operational Transformation

Having worked as an advisor with many private and public sector institutions in Greece, UAE and KSA, George has a demonstrated track record of digital and business transformations across a variety of industries and domains, always building strong relationships with clients and delivering tangible value for their business.

As a system integration enthusiast and with a strong technical background, he is constantly looking for new ways to leverage technology in order to optimise business processes, expand the service portfolio and improve the customer experience.

George is a member of the leadership team at DA-Desk. 

Marcura and our customers




Compliance team


Payments made per year


Global team members



The new guide from Thetius and Marcura: Avoiding the digital divide

This is my favourite single page from the new Guide on automation and digital transformation in maritime.

Sources for all the data shown in this image are listed in the guide.


Read the full guide here

We were delighted to work with Nick and his team at Thetius for the past few months on producing this report on automation, digitisation and digital transformation in maritime.




What you’ll find in the guide:

  • How to get the most out of maritime automation
  • How you can hit your digital transformation goals
  • The way to set your automation strategy – what, why and how to automate
  • Why machines will never replace people – how to combine people, processes and technology to maximise value

Fill in the form to read the guide


Find out more

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