Japan: e5 Lab creates Marindows to speed up maritime digitalization

Japanese shipping solutions provider e5 Lab Inc. has established Marindows Inc. in an effort to bring advanced information technology (IT) to Japan’s maritime industry.

e5 Lab

e5Lab is a joint venture between Asahi Tanker, Exeno Yamamizu Corporation, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., and Mitsubishi Corporation that aims to develop electrically powered, zero-emission vessels.

Issues facing the Japanese maritime industry

Looking at logistics in Japan – a maritime nation surrounded by the sea – marine transport accounts for 45% of Japan’s domestic cargo transport and 99% of overseas cargo transport.

In recent years, the maritime industry, which serves as Japan’s lifeline, has faced extremely complex and difficult-to-solve social, environmental, and economic issues. These include a shortage of manpower due to a sharp decline in the working-age population, long working hours and dangerous work for crewmembers, global-scale environmental issues, and intense competition from overseas such as China and South Korea. The depressed Japanese maritime industry leads not only to problems in logistics but also to a decline in overall national strength, bringing various negative impacts on all types of land-based businesses.

Considering this situation, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has promoted legislation aimed at improving productivity and creating a more attractive work environment in the maritime industry and enhance the business foundation of the maritime sector.

Roles of Marindows

As typified by Smart City, the digital transformation (DX) has been promoted beyond individual corporate frameworks by national and local governments.

The next-generation services and systems inspired by DX create completely new values and businesses. On the other hand, the maritime industry, with a market scale exceeding ¥8.5 trillion (about $78.5 billion), got behind of DX due to various hurdles such as difficulty in the development of communication environment and longstanding business practices. Under such circumstances, an ocean broadband (ocean BB) service, using a next-generation satellite, will start in 2022.

3 IT revolutions bring explosive growth to the maritime industry. Image Courtesy: e5 Lab

Looking toward the coming of ocean BB communication, Marindows will develop a streamlined digital platform (ocean OS Marindows), which allows for evolution and expansion by drawing upon the power of the information and communication revolution.

With the OS Marindows as the driving force, the company will address social, environmental, and economic issues facing the maritime industry.

What is more, Marindows will create new value and markets in the maritime industry along with partners of various leading companies having good business relationships with e5 Lab which is mother company of Marindows.

The three-year development plan will encompass the following phases:

  • From 4Q 2021: Start promotion activities for ocean BB communication, which will go into full-scale service in 2022;
  • 1-2Q 2022: Plan to release operational DX service for seafarers, shipowners, and shipping companies;
  • In 2022: Expand the service in various domains from merchant ships to fishing boats and pleasure craft;
  • In 2022: Expand Marindows service to global market based on experiences and knowledge of the use of DX and data in the Japanese maritime industry;
  • By end of 2023: Aim at 70% (about 5,000 ships) in installation ratio of ocean OS Marindows on Japanese coastal ships.

According to e5 Lab, Ocean OS Marindows is easy-to-use on existing ships as well as newbuilding ships.

In Phase 1, the partners will start developing services to improve operations for seafarers, shipowners, and shipping companies through the use of existing operation DX and data, in parallel with promotion of ocean BB communication.

However, the JV partners don’t think these initiatives are enough to solve the serious issues facing the maritime industry. Therefore, the ocean OS Marindows is constructed to become smarter and more convenient as time goes by and increase of user since this system will be kept updated and expanded continuously. The ocean OS Marindows will lead the industry toward a sustainable world from the sea and the land by connecting various systems of both.

Basic configuration of Ocean OS Marindows. Image Courtesy: e5 Lab

“We are honored that, along with Marindows and co-creation partner companies, we will be able to direct and co-create the future of the next-generation maritime industry, through use of a new form of ship – shore communication and IoT data based on our experiences as maritime system integrator. Furthermore, we are thinking of ways to contribute to the project and put our activities securely in the forefront of practical innovation in the marine industry,” Kazuma Waimatsu, Director/Divisional General Manager, Marine Electronic Products Division, Furuno Electric, said.

“We are happy that we can create a new market by evolving the maritime industry with the power of information communication, and co-create it with Marindows, which is building an industry base through digital transformation (DX). We believe that digital platforms using cutting-edge communication technologies, such as the next-generation satellite communication and High-Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), AI, and IoT, can bring innovation to global industries, and we will contribute to further accelerating digitalization,” Hidebumi Kitahara, Vice President, Head of Global Business Strategy Division, Technology Unit, said.

“Innovation utilizing digital technology and cyber risks are two sides of the same coin. For the development and the spread of innovation to be conducted under a safe environment, ClassNK supports the initiative through the provision of best practices constructed based on international trends and up-to-date information on cyber security,” Hirofumi Takano, Executive Vice President, Director of Innovation Development Division, ClassNK, commented.

In late 2020, ClassNK and e5 Lab also signed a joint research agreement on cyber security. For their first joint research project, the duo agreed to conduct a proof of concept on Marindows.

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