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Intelligent shipping to power nation

By WANG YING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-12 10:35

China COSCO Shipping's Zhongyuantaicang container ship, with a tonnage exceeding 10,000 tons, docks at the Beibu Gulf Port in Qinzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Intelligent shipping will transform China from a large shipping country into a maritime power, thanks to the ongoing digitalization and "new infrastructure" efforts, experts said.

New infrastructure development will strengthen the shipping industry by increasing communication efficiency and lowering the labor and management costs, Xu Zuyuan, former vice-minister of transport, said in his address to the Intelligent Shipping & New Infrastructure Conference in Shanghai's Lingang Special Area, the newly included part of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic had various effects on shipping and related businesses, be it manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and insurance. The global shipping industry has to grapple with factors like sliding trade, rising costs and supply shortages. Fortunately, digitalization can be used to solve the current challenges, said a report on intelligent shipping development in the Yangtze River Delta region published at the annual forum.

A new wave of digitalization is deeply and extensively influencing the shipping industry, and Chinese companies should see intelligent shipping as opportunities to sharpen their technology and innovation capabilities, said Fu Gangfeng, president of COSCO Shipping.

Intelligent shipping will enhance the competitiveness of Chinese shipping industry, and it is the way for realizing China's goal of growing from a large shipping nation into a shipping power, he said.

The realization of smart ships, a vital part of intelligent shipping, is a complicated engineering system consisting of high-end technologies and innovation, said Lin Zhongqin, president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

According to Lin, shipping caters to more than 90 percent of the global trade, and ships are significant for global trading and economic growth. In China, the shipping industry has connections with 97 of the 116 industries in the nation.

Despite China's large capacity in building vessels, shipbuilding enterprises in the country are not profitable enough, as many of the high-value components are imported.

Lin said Chinese companies should seize opportunities in smart-ship related research and development to overcome the current situation.

"We have made progress in intelligent shipping, but we should also pay equal attention to the completion of crafting laws and related regulations, the protection of industrial collaborations and interests, and the perfection of data safety, as well as solution of problems and challenges emerging from shipping informatization," said Xu.

Intelligent shipping, that integrates modern informatization and digital technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, block chain in shipping operations and management, is becoming an important part of China's transportation development.

Seven government agencies including the Ministry of Transport jointly published a guideline on the development of intelligent shipping in May 2019, in which they noted that a batch of key technologies and breakthroughs would be made in intelligent shipping by 2025, so as to make China a global innovation center for intelligent shipping development.

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