en-Innovation in the Maritime Industry - Jan de Kat


On 27 January 2011, Dr. Jan de Kat, Head of Innovation at Maersk Shipping Lines, gave a morning talk on the environmental facing the shipping industry and how Maersk meets those challenges with innovative technologies.

It has been traditionally perceived that the maritime industry, compared to other industries, is less permeable to innovation, where only explicitly defined strategy with centralized and clearly guided managerial leadership would spark some innovative activities. Nevertheless, the high development costs and strict industry regulations have been also discouraging companies to innovate.

Nowadays, however, the industry is undergoing a change, where it is believed that the demands for increase in efficiency, safety and protection of the environment can be only achieved by more innovation. In addition, it has been recognized that to become more innovative, companies need to open up for collaboration with other maritime organizations and organizations from outside the industry. Particularly, strengthening the collaboration between science and businesses is expected to increase the transfer of advances in research and development to the industry, thus enabling the less costly design, building and operation of ships which are safer and more sensitive to the environment.

Innovation in the maritime industry has been traditionally based on experiential learning and incremental innovations where each new ship tends to be a development of a previous successful design. Regular innovation is when both technical and market capabilities are preserved, while architectural innovation is if both the technical and market capabilities are destroyed.

When technical capabilities are preserved and market capabilities destroyed, it is a niche innovation, and when technical capabilities are destroyed and market capabilities preserved, there is a revolutionary innovation.

The main profilers of competitiveness of single participants in the industry were associated to some of the traditional competitive priorities like cost management, quality, delivery, and flexibility and innovative activities in the industry were adjusted to satisfy those competitive priorities.

Influenced by the industry's contextual factors (increased demand for ships, focus on the capacity, lack of regulations, self-centric mentality) the innovation has been incremental. Recent emergence of another important competitive priority, environmental friendliness, is changing the way of how innovation is done in the maritime industry. In order to boost the competitiveness, the maritime industry needs to augment its competitive priorities (cost, safety, environment friendliness) by improving the ways the innovation is being created.

Jan also explained that recent advances in high-speed computing have benefited the field of computational fluid dynamics. Ship designers can now analyze by computer complex water- and air-flow behavior, previously poorly understood through expensive and time-consuming testing with scaled ship models. These improved computational fluid dynamics techniques are revolutionizing the ship design process and enabling better designs to be produced more quickly. He further explained that the ship capsizing problem is one of the major challenges in naval architecture.