Digital Age Competition in the Marine Industry

What are the current developments?

New technologies and innovations that enable digitalisation and new solutions continue rising in the shipping industry, impacting the way we conduct business. The industry is exploring various opportunities offered by artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, software as a service, automation, and more. These promote efficient and secure trade, offer higher supply chain visibility, and allow using electronic documents. On the other side, these developments do not bring only benefits, e.g. automation can create potential issues for the workforce.

Another example is fitting Electronic Control Units (ECUs) to marine engines. The ECU software allows for the generation of data, which can help make better decisions related to service and maintenance. This new development raises numerous questions, some of which are related to the access, security, and use of data. Another issue is access to the ECU software for repair and maintenance. 

How do these developments affect competition?

The new opportunities provided by the rise of technology and innovation may lead to lower costs and consumer prices, as well as increased market access and flexibility for service providers in the industry. However, they also create concerns over data and consumer protection and implications for competition. 

With password-protected engine software, independent service providers might be unable to access the engine software to carry out repairs and service. If this issue persists, there is the possibility of creating an unfair advantage for engine manufacturers, ultimately to the detriment of both independent companies and shipowners/operators. 

The negative implications of digitalisation show that it is necessary to regulate new technology to achieve a balance between consumer welfare and economic interest. The EU has provided opportunities for stakeholders to voice their opinion on initiatives in this sphere, such as the European Strategy for Data, the Digital Services Act Package, and the New Competition Tool. 

We are yet to see how digitalisation will affect competition in the long run while the marine industry, along with lawmakers, can weigh the advantages and disadvantages and act accordingly. 

How does my business stay competitive?

Because of these developments, the shipping industry must adapt to new emerging markets and technologies.

Moreover, it is crucial to stay updated about the possibilities to influence the rules, since international and regional organisations are offering stakeholders the opportunity to voice their opinion. The best time to act on this is right now, while the discussion surrounding digitalisation and its implications for the marine industry is still in its early phases.