Designing the Best in Next-Generation Solutions for the Maritime Industry in Singapore
Researcher, MTI Singapore *
I joined NYK as a technically oriented employee in 2015, worked first in a division that plans newbuildings, and was seconded to MTI in 2017. Since being assigned to MTI Singapore, I have been involved in various jobs such as developing systems related to containership operation and promoting the launch of joint research projects through communication with local research institutes and the maritime division of the Singapore Government.
What are the activities at MTI Singapore?
The maritime industry, which employs 170,000 people in maritime establishments and contributes and accounts for 7% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), is positioned as one of the most important industries in Singapore. In addition, various methods to grant subsidies and resources for R&D are prepared and streamlined by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). Moreover, MPA has developed tax breaks and attracted more maritime companies. Therefore, lots of maritime-related companies from various countries have gathered in Singapore.
In such an environment, MTI Singapore, as an R&D arm of the NYK Group, promotes wide-ranged activities utilizing various subsidy systems and R&D resources, and I myself enjoy the fresh new kinds of work every day. At this time I would like to introduce the branch’s activities along with three key words: site, internationality, independence.
With the actual site just in front of the office, define and solve an issue
There are always about 1,000 vessels in the Port of Singapore, so a vast actual site, full of R&D tasks, lies right in front of the office. In this situation, MTI Singapore has been connected with various companies such as: shipowners, who own vessels; operators, who operate vessels; crew members, who navigate vessels; terminal operators, who operate ports; and shippers, who request transportation of cargoes.
The best part of our work is problem solving. Understanding clients’ user needs delicately and in collaboration with related companies and research institutes, we proceed R&D projects and develop unprecedented solutions and tools. Among these projects is the IBIS PLUS system development project, into which I’ve put much effort, for realizing optimal vessel operation.
NYK has promoted the IBIS (Innovative Bunker & Idle-time Saving) project, which has been aiming for the optimal and economical operation of containerships since 2012. This project is for supporting decision making by vessel operators who are in charge of daily schedule coordination, bunker planning, and such, and thus realizing optimal vessel operation by linking, in real time, huge amounts of information such as SIMS data, which NYK and MTI have long worked on, meteorological and hydrographic prediction, ocean current data, operating conditions of individual vessels, and voyage plans.
I’m the project manager of the IBIS PLUS system development project, which aims for realizing semi-automation by incorporating all the activities of the IBIS project into one business system. It’s my first time to oversee system development, which challenge entails a continuing process of trial and error to design the system user interface and define the system requirements of each and every function, as it was quite difficult to organize the necessary information and break down/format the operation know-how cultivated by NYK and explain it to system developers.
This system development is conducted with overseas companies, so, of course, the communication is carried out in English. Also, we have adopted the agile methodology, which repeats function development and its release in a short period of time, to maximize the user needs. And we must consider and organize the priority of each function for development. As a project manager, I must define the system requirements quickly and carefully, with a deep understanding of the users’ routine work, so I devote extra time to getting a better practical understanding of containership operations.
Currently, the IBIS PLUS system that we developed is being used by Ocean Network Express Pte. Ltd. (ONE) 1, the world’s sixth-largest containership company in terms of fleet size. ONE has deployed the system for its roughly 240 containerships and has utilized it for optimal fleet operation.
We quickly incorporate the knowledge gained through the R&D activities in systems, upgrade the system, and utilize the upgraded system on site right away. I find the work challenging and interesting, as we can get the users’ responses directly, expand the pool of timely feedback, and thus find new tasks and solve them and further improve the system.
International R&D activities
In Singapore, opportunities to conduct R&D projects together with overseas companies are increasing, for many maritime-related companies have gathered from various countries.
For now, in accordance with its medium-term management plan,2 the NYK Group has taken steps to create new value through Green Business. Currently, to learn the latest in renewable-energy technologies, MTI Singapore is participating in a long-term demonstration of tidal energy being sponsored by MAKO Energy Pte. Ltd.3 and Sentosa Development Corporation.4 The demonstration will start in earnest next spring in a first-time attempt to commercialize tidal energy in Singapore. Turbines will be installed under the Sentosa Boardwalk – i.e., the bridge between the Singapore mainland and the island of Sentosa – and the power-generation efficiency, cost of power generation, and storage will be examined.
While creating relationships with various overseas companies and universities, we need to proceed R&D activities as the NYK Group at the same time, which is quite a hard task and requires coordination skills, but I hope this will lead to creating Green Business.
Paving my own way through countless R&D opportunities
Further, MTI Singapore is working closely with Symphony Creative Solutions Pte. Ltd.5 in Singapore, the NYK Group company founded in 2016 for developing and providing next-generation services for the maritime and logistics fields.
As mentioned above, in Singapore systems for supporting R&D projects and resources are streamlined and prepared; so if you can define an issue, you can surely realize helpful collaboration with other companies and research institutes, and work together to solve the issue. To define an issue, it’s necessary to understand the nature of the issue and explore users’ needs, which cannot be done until you comprehensively learn about the business yourself and widely collect information. Plus, it all depends on you, on whether you can build good relationships and proceed a project with various partners; the work here requires independent personal initiative.
Fully utilizing the favorable environment, I’d like to proceed as many R&D projects as possible and eventually solve issues at various sites.
1. Ocean Network Express Pte. Ltd.:
A combined containership-operating company that was formed by Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd., Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd., and NYK
2. Medium-term management plan:
Staying Ahead 2022 with Digitalization and Green
3. MAKO Energy Pte. Ltd.
MAKO Energy is the Singapore-based subsidiary of Elemental Energy Technologies Ltd., a tidal turbine developer that has interest and expertise in the area of renewable-energy solutions, particularly tidal power and its applications.
4. Sentosa Development Corporation:
A statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore, which oversees the development, management, and promotion of the island as a resort destination for locals and tourists.
5. Symphony Creative Solutions Pte. Ltd.:
A company founded by NYK, MTI, NYK Business Systems Co., Ltd., Weathernews Inc., and Kozo Keikaku Engineering Inc.