Moving goods from country-to-country has seldom been more discussed in the UK. Many have always considered the topic rather dry and reserved for talks between the Cabinet or international leaders. Now however, Britain has an exciting opportunity ahead for those interested in innovation, technology and change.
Should we emerge from the Brexit negotiations with no deal, we would begin trading on WTO terms, otherwise known as a World Trade Deal. This is where the opportunities begin for those interested in innovation, technology and change, because we will be able to completely transform the way we trade with other countries.
The shipping industry in particular must begin looking at the ways it can reform and step up to the opportunities and challenges that await us.
Using technology to transform how countries trade is not, as some suggest, merely a distant pipedream. Around the world equipment manufacturers, ports, and ship operators – along with a host of innovative startups – are leading the charge in digitalisation.
In Rotterdam for example, the port call optimisation platform, Pronto, which was developed by Dutch tech startup Teqplay, has allowed vessel operators to cut waiting times at the port by up to 20 per cent.
In Israel, innovative tech startup AiDock is showing strong promise in cracking the widely discussed customs problem as it has developed an automated customs clearance platform that reduces the admin burden on freight forwarders to speed up the customs process.
It is time for the UK to now step up to this challenge. There is no reason why we cannot use technology to look at how we can reform our own trading systems.
The UK shipping technology sector is a £4bn industry in its own right, estimated to be worth £13bn per year by 2030 and the ‘tradetech’ industry is seizing the opportunities this presents. CargoMate, a London-based shipping company, has developed a platform that helps containerships minimise delays in port, allowing them to sail slower and save fuel. Additionally, Hull-based Relmar is developing an AI-powered maintenance platform for vessels that maximises uptime while minimising risk and cost.
Leaving on a World Trade Deal will force us to think laterally about how best to support and develop companies in tradetech across the UK. Companies like CargoMate and Relmar have a genuine opportunity to thrive as we trade with the rest of the work.
No longer dependent upon the EU and able to work effectively with countries around the globe, we have an opportunity to make the UK a hub for digital innovation in maritime that will not only drive greater efficiencies across the industry, but will also position us as an open, forward-thinking trading partner for countries around the world.