Embarking on 2024, the maritime industry is steering through transformative times, propelled by technological advancements and strategic shifts. Jens Poulsen, co-founder of Marcura and Group CEO, offers his insights and expectations for the developments in the year ahead.
Q1: Jens, as we enter 2024, what major tech trends do you foresee in the maritime industry?
“In 2024, I see AI and machine learning playing a realistic and substantial role, beyond the existing hype. Their value lies in measurably improving vessel and cargo turnaround times and enhancing predictive capabilities with robust data sets. At Marcura, our ongoing priority is ensuring high-quality data stewardship for effective and safe AI use.”
“It is a near-certainty we will see more AI-generated content and analytics this year. While some of it may look convincing, it will miss the ‘mark to reality’ and frustrate practitioners who can differentiate it from actuality. A lot of time and effort will be directed into sorting through huge volumes of questionable AI-generated output, similar to how too much time is spent sorting through emails now. With this amount of potential work, I fear we risk creating AI fatigue among practical users.”
“The sophistication and usefulness of AI relies on exceptional training data. Current large language models, while articulate and convincing, need careful handling to ensure the quality and accuracy of content. Quality language doesn’t always equate to quality content, and training AI models require more than just surface-level data.”
“Another area where I anticipate significant improvements during the course of 2024 is in vessel communications, due to increased satellite bandwidth and technologies like Starlink. This advancement will not only optimise operations but also substantially improve crew welfare. It will enable crew members to maintain better connectivity with their lives onshore, allowing them to manage their finances and family affairs remotely while at sea.”
Q2: With recent consolidation in the maritime tech space, what are your thoughts for 2024?
“The maritime tech arena experienced notable consolidation in 2023, a trend likely to continue. The last few years have seen an overflow of platforms and applications, largely due to easy access to investment. This led to user fatigue over multiple platforms. In my opinion, consolidation is an essential response, driven by economic cycles and user demand for simplicity and efficiency. The future, I believe, lies in integrated ecosystems rather than a multitude of isolated solutions.”
“Moreover, when it comes to physical vessel performance, we know the focus is on digitally accessible data, such as AIS-based movements and data captured on the vessel itself. However, in the context of commercial contracts and conventions, vessel activities in general are not readily available as data we can subscribe to. We believe that managing these commercial parameters that ultimately drive vessel behaviour, is key to supporting decarbonisation of the sector. This is also where we are focusing our AI and digitalisation efforts.”
“With our data volumes and contract digitalisation processes, we are well positioned to simulate, calculate and manage the financial impact on voyage results of specific port calls, through ClaimsHub.ai Center of Excellence and the PortLog Pro extension to voyage estimators such as IMOS VIP.”
Q3: Can you elaborate on Marcura’s plans following recent strategic acquisitions?
“Over the next year, Marcura is focused on integrating our recent acquisitions to enhance our value proposition. This includes streamlining procure-to-pay processes for ship owners and managers, simplifying procurement and crew salary management. We’re also developing a comprehensive payment system covering vessel, crew and supplier payments.”
“At Marcura, we have refined our unique approach to deliver consistency and reliability through our Shared Centres of Excellence (SCoE), with DA-Desk being the best known of these. In each SCoE, we create a focus on a single, intractable challenge that most industry players face alone, such as Port Spend Management, Crew and Supplier Payments, Procurement and Claims. Addressing these issues in a SCoE means we can invest much more in the correct technology and retain experts in their specific fields. The volume and quality of data are critical for process quality and training practical AI tools. These solutions, in many ways, deliver to the industry the much lauded ‘collaboration’ and digitalisation dividend we all aspire towards.”
“Additionally, our ‘centre of excellence’ for demurrage claims, ClaimsHub, now operational and staffed with experts, aims to significantly speed up and simplify the resolution of demurrage claims, reducing settlement times from months to days.”
Q4: Often, the shipping industry is critiqued for being digitally backward. How do you see this as we move into the new year?
“It’s somewhat unfair to label the entire shipping industry as digitally backward. True, some aspects lag in digital advancement, but it’s essential to consider the industry’s complexities and fragmentation.”
“At Marcura, we’re instrumental in standardising and digitising interactions across this diverse ecosystem, indicating considerable progress in digital maturity. Our focus on processing millions of transactions for our customers, which represent about a third of the industry, underlines our commitment to digitising processes and maintaining fresh, accurate data. This emphasis on data quality enhances the depth of our benchmarks, arguably among the best in the industry, enabling our customers to digitalise their data seamlessly and lay a solid foundation for their digital projects.”
Q5: Finally, what is one of the major challenges you foresee for the coming year?
“One universal challenge in the maritime sector is attracting the finest talent, a key to ongoing success. Drawing top digital talent involves creating an environment that encourages innovation and operational efficiency. The importance of high-quality, digitised data environments cannot be overstated. Digital professionals seek meaningful, innovative work, not just routine digitisation tasks.”
“The maritime industry must establish digital footprints that facilitate differentiation and competitive advantage. Marcura’s approach to digitalisation, including our work on AI and the development of high-quality digitised data environments, presents digital experts with opportunities to leverage data in creative and impactful ways. This is essential for attracting and retaining top talent in this field.”
In conclusion, Marcura Group’s outlook for 2024 is centred on leveraging AI and advanced technologies to enhance maritime operations, focusing on data quality and integrated solutions. Led by Group CEO Jens Poulsen, Marcura aims to streamline industry processes and tackle the challenge of attracting top digital talent, positioning itself at the forefront of maritime industry innovation and digital transformation.