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Digital Disruptions in the Shipping Industry

Hamburg, June 22, 2016 – The shipping industry is going through unusually difficult times. „Germany will have to fight for its position as one of the leading maritime nations in the world. However, the preconditions to achieve this are positive“, said Prof. Dr. Max Johns during his inaugural lecture under the theme of „Shipping in the Framework of Global Competition“ on June 22, 2016 at HSBA Hamburg School of Business Administration in Hamburg. The German-owned fleet has been shrinking roughly 17% in the last few years, diminishing significant amounts of equity on the way. Johns sees a lot of potential for the future, if shipping companies grab the opportunities digitization offers for shipping companies. Looking at comparable developments in the automobile industry, big leaps in the logic of transportation services can already be observed. Even in their personal environment, people have less interest in a prestigious car in front of the house. It is rather an efficient car-sharing service that does the trick. „People are no more looking at ownership of clumsy transportation assets, they demand logistical systems into which they integrate via smart devices“, declared Johns. „That holds equally true for the maritime industry.” In the very near future it will be common to direct a ship largely from the shore side. It is already normal practice to monitor a ship remotely in more detail than the crew ever can. The newly appointed Professor of Maritime Management at the HSBA is sure: „In the future we need less technical expertise on board and significantly more know-how ashore.”

Today, every ship is creating a vast amount of data. Every shipping company aggregates the data of the fleet to “big data”. Many of these data go unused, unexplored and commercially unexploited. “The next decade will determine, who has access to these data, who identifies useful interpretations and who can make profitable use of these data”, said Johns. This is no different to car manufacturers that are confronted with Google and others who combine the hardware with self-driving algorithms. The manufacturers are taking care not to be reduced to the role of hardware providers while others find profitable use rather of the data than of the hardware itself. 

A number of shipping companies are already far advanced in the use of data and digital networking of their maritime assets and cargo. Cruise operator AIDA is 24/7 reading thousands of data points from every ship and uses them for safety and logistical purposes while supporting the crew on board with critical advice. This saves resources and drives efficiency. Johns is convinced: “Germany has all the prerequisites to play a crucial role in the digitalization of the maritime industry.”

With the right local partners like Fraunhofer Institut German ship-owners can bring the innovative potential of shipping to fruition. Especially the Digital Innovation Lab @ HSBA can become a crucial partner in the development of digital strategies. „Shipping is living its next big quantum leap that can be compared to the move from sails to steam engines“, according to Johns. „Necessarily, the maritime cluster of Germany will become more international, more digital and more outreaching. HSBA Hamburg School of Business Administration is the right partner to accompany the maritime industry on this fascinating course.”

Prof. Dr. Max Johns is Managing Director of the German Shipowners‘ Association VDR and an experienced expert in the maritime industry. After he studied in Hamburg and Montpellier (France) and graduated with a Bachelor and Master Degree in Archeology, he did his MBA at the Vlerick Leuven-Gent Business School and attended Master Classes at  Harvard Business School. After his PhD from the University of Tübingen he taught at several universities. In his academic work he focused mostly on the economic consequences of ship finance as well as the implications of the financial crisis on the shipping industry. Besides his maritime focus, Johns is a communication expert. He has worked for 10 years at German broadcaster ZDF where he led the company through the digital transition before moving to Eurovision in Geneva. In 2005 he became Director of Communciations at VDR and was named Managing Director in 2012. 

After several years as lecturer at HSBA Dr. Max Johns was appointed 2016 as Professor for Maritime Management at HSBA. 

Service for the media:

Please contact us if you are interested to interview Prof. Dr. Max Johns. 


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