Digital signal from LISW 2019

London International Shipping Week 2019 offered a huge array of options for locals and visitors alike, with around 200 events taking place, but one thing catching the eye was the accelerating application of new technologies across the shipping industry, says CJC Partner Andrew Gray.

As a forward looking and expanding specialist maritime law firm, CJC is engaged in and has expertise across the issues providing the focus for the organisers of London International Shipping Week, which this year took place between 9 – 13 September.

In fact, we provide legal support across all areas of maritime and offshore business to clients in a rapidly changing world. Given the options available for attendance at LISW2019 and the sheer pace of change, one of the key objectives for participants in events of this kind could be to the find linking strands in our interconnected industry. Others may simply wish to find out more about topics that have entered mainstream shipping consciousness, sometimes without being fully understood.

Among the key areas where technology provides a catalyst  for bringing together different interests in our industry, climate change is surely a leading candidate. It will be the driver in ensuring cleaner fuels (IMO 2020 Sulphur Cap), providing new propulsion systems and developing carbon capture solutions, which will be critical in achieving targets set by regulators, and in the monitoring solutions that confirm they are met.

Advancing technology is also the key to developing navigation systems that look beyond ECDIS to augmented reality on bridges and the eventual path to autonomous vessels.

It is essential that these rapidly expanding areas are considered in the context of how they will fundamentally change the way we trade, potentially offering increased safety and reduced pollution as well as reduced costs, and on the basis of their huge social impact. Furthermore, electronic evidence, casualty replay and virtual reality must fit alongside traditional evidence into the legal framework for casualty investigation.

Our industry’s need for robust cyber security from finance to navigation systems is now widely acknowledged, and is an area in which CJC has specialist expertise. Meanwhile, Blockchain is widely used across the shipping industry, from contracts of carriage to control of documents.

This serves to highlight the ongoing importance of investment in the human talent, education and innovation needed to make technology work to the greater benefit of our industry. In passing, therefore, we should acknowledge the UK Government’s £3million prize for innovation, which reflects the £20,000 reward offered in 1714  to solve the problem of determining longitude, famously achieved by John Harrison.

Other stand out events for the CJC team during LISW2019 included: the Columbia Shipmanagement ‘Ship Manager of the future’ forum; the Shipowners’ Club LISW19 Seminar - How to Exclude Liability for Negligence; the Waves Group ‘The future of Incident Management using Digital Technology’ workshop and the Nautical Institute's Digital Transformation Seminar.

The Headline Conference on September 12th also deserves separate mention for the way it drew together overarching themes that included globalisation, climate change and technology, with keynote speeches by senior government, naval, regulatory and commercial shipping leaders.