Zero-emission shipping is coming

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) initial strategy on greenhouse gases (GHGs) is driving system integrators and shipping companies towards new and more energy-efficient solutions. The goal is to meet IMO's GHG emission reduction targets.

“(…) we are behind schedule when it comes to the global transition towards zero-emission shipping – far behind. But now we are speeding up and the momentum is growing.”

– Mr. Sveinung Oftedal, Chair, IMO GHG Working Group 

IMO’s initial GHG strategy aims to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 (IMO 2030) from 2008’s levels and at least 50% of the shipping industry’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (IMO 2050).


An illustration depicting how emission targets for the shipping industry drives data volumes, as smart ship technologies are called upon to make ships more efficient. Time range: 2010–2030. Factors mentioned: Automation, navigation, cloud, IoT.


Introducing the smart ship

To that end, shipping companies and ship owners have begun upgrading their fleets, investing in new hybrid and electric vessels, as well as retrofitting current ships with innovative smart ship technology. But what exactly do we mean by smart?


We take a closer look in this article, but here's the brief: You can consider things or systems smart when they

  • Connect to the Internet or other devices.
  • React to events.
  • Send and/or receive data and commands.

A smart ship has interconnected systems that can be programmed to run intelligently, and to communicate events of interest. These systems will do what they’re programmed to do, with a computational swiftness far beyond the ability of human beings.

It pays off – computer assistance in a complex environment like the sea is paramount for realising meaningful emissions reductions. Moreover, smart tech improves safety for crew and cargo. Collision avoidance, early fire detection, and autonomous man-over-board rescue systems (!) are but a few examples that testify to the potential of the smart shipping industry.  

Getting started with maritime computer networks

These capabilities don’t just appear out of thin air, of course. For the smart ship development to materialize, fleets need digital infrastructure. Onboard computer networks play a key role.


Let’s take a closer look at the technology that enables the smart shipping industry.

A 2D drawing showing the computer network of a smart ship. The illustration is a contour of a supply ship, with a computer network mapped out across its body. Computer network units are marked by blue circles, peripherals are marked by white circles. The illustrations contains modem, router, switches, clients/computers, CCTV cameras, PLCs, sonar, propulsion, and radar.


Computer networks on board ships




Connects the ship to the Internet.


The router 1) enables units/users to share the single Internet connection and 2) routes traffic between the local network and external networks.


Directs traffic within the local network.


Servers host shared resources (like the network operating system) and process data from sensors and devices.

Clients (users)

Units that allow you to access and use the network are known as clients. Computers, cell phones and PLCs are a few examples.


Data passes through the network via cables, also referred to as wires. Many networks combine hardwired- and wireless connections.


Necessary for the input, output, and storage of data.

: Keyboards and sensors (input), monitors and printers (output), harddrives and USB memory sticks (storage).


If you think this looks like what you’ll find in any other industrial computer network, you’re correct. Land-based computer networks and maritime computer networks are, in principle, the same.


But the sea is a uniquely challenging environment for IT technology.

Ruggedized hardware is a must at sea


Ships routinely grapple with harsh conditions and environments and are subject to rigid requirements and regulations for safety and security. Factors to account for include:


  • Temperature differences, moisture, and vibrations.
  • Redundancy for critical systems like propulsion or air compressors. 
  • Complete darkness: Monitors ought to be dimmable down to a minimum to preserve your night vision.
  • Space restrictions: Close proximity between units means they need shielding from electro-magnetic radiation.


…and the list goes on. Thus, it's paramount your network hardware is ruggedized and tested for marine applicationsBut that’s not all it takes to secure a network. 



Smart ships, too, must endure harsh conditions.


Addressing cyber-security vulnerabilities in ships


Global supply chains—including shipping companies—have become favored targets for cyber criminals. No surprise then, when the SMM Maritime Industry Report 2021 found 84 percent of shipowners and ship operators consider cyber security important or very important—four points up from 2017. But despite growing awareness, ships remain at risk from cyber-attacks.


The reality is that an aeroplane or vessel, like any digital system, can be hacked.

 – David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, to CNBC.
A marine cyber risk consultancy reports of “one new incident per day on average” (2021).  And according to one ethical hacker, it’s not unusual for vessels to be “wide open to cyber attack”. The good news is you’re not powerless against these attacks. Learning where you might be vulnerable is a good starting point for building a robust defense.
According to BIMCO, typical weak spots in ships include: 

  • Cargo- and loading management systems
  • Bridge systems
  • Propulsion- and machinery management
  • Access control systems
  • Passenger-servicing and -management systems
  • Passenger-facing public networks
  • Administrative- and crew welfare systems
  • Communication systems 

If this topic hits home with you, perhaps you’d like to know a little more. Here’s an article where we explore why the above systems are vulnerable, and what steps you might take to boost your defenses.


IT hardware for the cyber-secure vessel


Knowing your weak spots is good. Strengthening them is even better. For that, choosing the right hardware goes a long way. 


Below, you'll find a selection of ideal hardware for the cyber-security-conscious shipowner. If you're curious what makes these units particularly adept at protecting your data, we provide more details in this article. In short: They combine top performance with strong, inbuilt cyber-defenses—and they handle tough, physical environments. Hence their certifications.  




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Industrial computer/server

Smart monitor

Surveillance camera


EDS G4008


All-in-One Industrial Secure Router
Moxa® EDR-810

Industrial managed switches
® EDS-4000/G4000



How to keep up with technological developments

On average, electronics change every seven years. This poses a challenge to shipowners and system integrators: How do you keep your vessel up-to-date throughout its 25-year lifecycle?

A future-proof strategy involves three key concepts: 1) form-fit, 2) lifecycle management, and 3) backward compatibility. Together, they ensure that all systems and hardware are capable and prepared to support data volume and processing requirements seven years into the future, and – when changes must be made – enable a smooth transition.

Expect higher data volumes and processing requirements

Upgrading core systems to implement smart ship technology will increase data volumes and processing requirements, as improved data (i.e. better weather data, navigational data, sonar, and radar) provides greater control of ship’s systems – which in term leads to more energy-efficient decision making and a reduction in carbon and GHG emissions.

This exponential increase in data volumes and processing requirements means that system integrators and original equipment manufacturers need smarter and more powerful hardware, to facilitatethe smart ship technology that will enable the shipping industry to realize IMO 2030 targets.


3 key requirements for a seamless technology shift

A graph illustrating how you can keep your ship up to date in terms of data processing, even though the ship lifecycle spans 20–30 years. 3 key requirements: Form fit, lifecycle management and backward compatibility.


Need help with your onboard data infrastructure?
Feel free to contact us for a consultation any time.



eBook smart ship cover

Download e-Book: Implementing smart ship technology to reach IMO 2030/2050 emissions targets

In this e-Book you will learn the key requirements for securing a seamless technology shift to reach the IMO goals

Download here

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