R&D Resources

Interview with Dr Pierre C. Sames

Disruptive Technologies in the Maritime Sector

SMI had the opportunity to speak to Dr Pierre C. Sames, Group Technology and Research Director at DNV GL, during the Singapore Maritime Week 2017 on disruptive technologies in the maritime sector under SMI Horizon, a series of commentaries, interviews and analysis by distinguished academic & industry thought leaders.

  1. The world has now been taken over by the fourth technological revolution driven by data, which is also commonly termed as ‘Industry 4.0’. This has enabled the rise of disruptive technologies that changed the way industries work.Do you think that the maritime industry is well-prepared and ready for ‘Industry 4.0’ given that the last major change was observed in the containerisation of the shipping industry half a century ago?

    Dr Sames: Well, thank you for the question. I believe our maritime industry is well prepared to adapt but it is different for different players. Not all the stakeholders have the same abilities and resources to go through that kind of transformation, which is enabled by digitalisation. We could have a look at all these stakeholders one by one to understand the different forces that are playing out.Looking first at those that create systems – the equipment suppliers. We see them as drivers of innovation in this new arena. It is their systems becoming cyber-physical that really form the foundation of the digital revolution in our maritime industry. They are drivers and I believe they are well-prepared.

    The second stakeholder is shipyards. For shipyards, this play will be much more difficult. We see them taking advantage in design and production but when you look at the entire lifecycle of the assets, it will be much more difficult for shipyards to take a role in the operational phases well.

    Now looking at ship owners and ship operators, it’s different for different ship types. We would argue that for those owners operating in liner services they would be very much prepared and professionalised, and they would take advantage of digitalisation. Whereas those in the tramp shipping business might become followers.

    The next stakeholder that we could look at is service suppliers – like classification societies. We have been data managers all the time. Our task was to look at the condition of the ships, perform analysis and advise our customers. That will potentially not change but it will be made more transparent and more efficient with the use of digitalisation. Thus, I would argue that classification societies are principally well prepared for that step. We at DNV GL have just launched an open data management platform called Veracity, which is helping our customers to break down the silos to share information and to have better analytics.

    Last but not least, authorities. It’s important to put the whole picture together. Flag state administrations will certainly benefit from the information collected. The question is – how much are they able to share the information that they have? In this digital world, sharing is caring. We need to come together to make it work, so all stakeholders need to do that.

  2. IBM and Maersk have recently partnered to manage container shipping supply chain using blockchain. Could you share on the digitalisation of the maritime industry in Europe and how this may influence the global competitiveness of the maritime cluster in Europe?

    Dr Sames: I believe that the European maritime industry is a larger member of the global maritime world. I don’t see it as a particular European advantage that is developing. This is also not a disadvantage of the European maritime cluster. What I see however is that there is a lot of public attention and public funding to support new developments. This might only be available in places like Europe and Singapore where the Government and authorities really take care about the competitiveness of their local players.The flagship research programme in Europe, Horizon 2020 of the European Commission, is actually taking steps to increase the competitiveness of companies in a digital world. Looking at production, there is an initiative called Factories of the Future that is looking at advanced manufacturing on a larger scale. There are significant investments, tens of millions of Euros going into these projects. When it comes to shipping and shipbuilding, the investments are unfortunately not that big. This is also due to the fact that our industry is actually too fragmented when compared to other industries.Being so fragmented with so many hundreds of players in Europe, It is very difficult to form a united view on what is needed in the future. Without that united view, we might fail to send that message. If you cannot send that message, you will never receive the support from the Government. The maritime industry in Europe is thus struggling these days to come back together again to be united – and that is a requirement of successfully facing these challenges that we see.

    DNV GL was one of the founders of another flagship initiative called Vessels for the Future, but we have unfortunately not been able to deliver a united view on our future. So, we have a challenge in this respect that is to come.

  3. Organisational transformation is perceived as one of the key drivers for successful adoption of new technologies. How does corporate culture and mindset affect an organisation’s leadership to embrace change and adopt disruptive technologies to create enablers for new business models and opportunities?

    Dr Sames: I believe that the first element to focus on is to transmit a sense of urgency to your staff that this change is needed, and that this transformation is going on where we cannot wait to sit down and relax. I would argue that companies that have an advantage are those that have recently transformed themselves a number of times or experienced larger changes. That is what we see from DNV GL.When it comes to the speed of transformation, I believe that we have yet to adapt to that. What we observe today is a speed that is driven by digitalisation, which is much faster than everything we have seen and observed in the past. In this arena, I believe that companies need to consider changing their speed inside of their companies. Our agenda at DNV GL is to understand that speed and to understand that transformation and to continuously learn so that we can move forward as an entire team. We send our people to relevant training sessions so that they understand the speed and impact of digitalisation, and then translate that back into actions that we want to implement. We have set ourselves the goal of becoming data smart by 2020, so we are on full speed ahead to transform DNV GL.Let me also recall that we created the first industrial revolution when sailing ships were replaced by steam ships. We went stronger, or became stronger, when the second industrial revolution happened with electricity being implemented. We then went on to the first large computing devices – the third industrial revolution. We believe that we will come out stronger in or after this fourth industrial revolution has been implemented. We are very much working towards it as we embrace these changes.

    Being data smart for us has several components. The first is to utilise the data that we already have in a smarter way. Traditionally, the data of a classification society is on paper. So, we will need to utilise that, transform it and thereafter start to collect and organise our data in a digital fashion. That is obviously step one.

    The next step is to transform our existing services to be digitally delivered so that we go away from using documents to use digital models to do our jobs. We are going away from time-based inspection to condition-based inspection. These are transformation of our existing services.

    But there are also new things that can be established. We are also looking at new services that were not available before. This only became possible with the help of more data sets that we have access to where we merge these data sets together, filter and analyse them to deliver new insights.

  4. With the transformation induced by strategic needs for innovation and productivity, displacement of people and skillsets may be a real outcome. Could you share your thoughts on the impact of disruptive technologies in the maritime sector and how we can maintain relevance under this context?

    Dr Sames: When it comes to the people who are employed in our industry, they certainly need to continuously learn. We certainly see a stronger trend towards more automation in our industry when it comes to design, approval and production. It’s very likely that some jobs will be lost but there will also be many new jobs created.Looking back, I believe that people had always been fearful of the future – we were afraid that there would not be enough jobs that could be created. That’s the same challenge that we face today. I’m a strong believer in opportunities and I would argue that we will be able to create many new and exciting jobs. They would have names that we have not even heard about. I believe we can stay relevant in this context by continuously learning and by embracing these changes. We at DNV GL are bringing in new kinds of skill sets that we do not have today.We send our people not only to courses on digitalisation but also to courses like Top Tech that is happening every year in California where our lead experts become exposed to other technologies. It’s about looking left and right to understand what is going on just next to you, and possibly what’s happening left and right is actually more important and have an impact on what we do tomorrow. So it’s always good to look at other technologies that are emerging to understand what possible impact they could have on us, our customers and also the society at large. This is also where my unit, Group Technology and Research, is very strong. Our task is to explore new technologies and find out how big an impact they would bring about. After we have identified these technologies, we would work on technology development – testing, piloting and prototyping.

  1. Seeing how Airbnb and Uber have disrupted the travel and taxi industry respectively, how would you foresee and describe similar rise of non- traditional maritime players resulting in a transformation or even disruption to the maritime industry?

    Dr Sames: Airbnb and Uber are similar companies that principally play in the area of asset utilisation and allocation. I would predict that new players would become visible as they try to take a similar role in maritime transportation. We have already seen companies like Xeneta or Freightos trying to take that space.In the case of Xeneta, it is organising information sharing between those that have a cargo, the forwarders, and those that have a ship to carry it. This enables freight rate comparisons for containerised cargoes and thereby delivering transparency and efficiency to this market and help the industry to organise maritime transportation. Freightos adds another function to that, which is booking. Not only does it compare freight rates but also performs the booking and organise transport instantaneously.

    I would expect that there would be more companies in this space because the market potential is very big, it’s a couple of billions of dollars per year of freight rates that the seaborne trade is generating. There is a very large economic attraction for these companies to go into that space.

  2. Could you share some thoughts and insights on how renewable energy will impact the maritime industry?

    Dr Sames: Absolutely and that is a very relevant question. There is a revolution happening in renewables today and it’s also happening fast – faster than what we expected or even predicted. We see that renewable wind and solar energy generation is becoming much cheaper and faster. This means that electricity will become available at larger quantities and lower prices. It makes it attractive for what I call non-traditional users. Akin to how demand for electric vehicles on the streets would likely multiply in the future, I would also predict that short-sea shipping might be electrified in the future that we see ahead of us. Taking advantage of electricity at prices that are below the prices of fossil fuels of today and make it economically attractive to consider electricity instead of fuel. Not only will it be economically more attractive, it is also environmentally friendlier.

  3. Looking at augmented reality and artificial intelligence, what is DNV GL’s approach towards these two disruptive technologies?

    Dr Sames: We are experimenting with augmented reality to support our survey activities. That’s an obvious application giving a remote survey additional information from a central location to guide the surveyor’s work and help him to spot the right things – especially those that matter a little bit more. One of the challenges that we have today in utilising this technology is connectivity to the surveyor. It is relatively difficult to establish a network signal to a surveyor within a ship structure, and thus limiting the application today.When it comes to artificial intelligence, we are using machine learning today to enable the analysis of larger data sets and to generate new insights. We are also using natural language processing for our new assistant that we will have, helping to advise our customers and to help our own people to find things. The natural language processing interface that has become available today is a novel way to interact with machines. It is possibly more natural than using a keyboard and it’s also much faster in terms of communication rate.

    Another area we explored in artificial intelligence is pattern recognition. We are looking at ways to identify anomalies recorded in video streams. Drones are capturing video streams from assets documenting their condition. But we don’t have the means to automatically analyse those video streams today to find those anomalies that matter. That’s an area we are working on.

  4. So would you say that the need for research and development is very important?

    Dr Sames: Absolutely, everything else would be the wrong answer! As manager for Group Research & Technology at DNV GL, I’m certainly convinced that investment in research is important for our company as we have always invested a significant part of our global revenues back into research. I believe that this has enabled our company to be constantly at the forefront of technology with greater understanding of which technologies matter. It also helps us to better advise our customers who are early adopters to envision the impact and benefits that these technologies bring about, which would eventually be implemented to the wider customer base. So without research, I believe a company like us wouldn’t be successful.

Simulation & Modelling (SAM)

Awarded on 17 Oct 2014

In addition to being one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore has also likewise thrived as one of the leading global maritime capitals that is highly driven by knowledge-based services and expertise. With changing demands and complexity of port and shipping activities, there would be a need for better management of complex port and ship systems.

With global trend drivers, such as shipping market volatility, environmental regulations, and energy cost-efficiency, advanced technological solutions would be required to address these concerns through innovation in port infrastructure and ship design. Hydrodynamics, physical modelling, and mathematical modelling are some of the scientific means towards more cost-effective and environmentally friendly operations. There has also been proposed methodology that focuses more on integrated systems-approach over independent components-approach.

An integrated systems strategy would also drive the need to manage sophisticated engineering and technology through risk-based approach for higher reliability and asset lifecycle management to bring cost benefits. This would enable users to complement both business and technical objectives.

Building upon the above technological trend towards a greater need for advanced complex systems, higher end training would also be required to produce competent manpower with the critical domain knowledge and skillsets. Looking beyond the conventional field of training through simulation, research in the human-machine interface through applied human engineering studies of maritime ergonomics would also be applicable to optimise interaction between people and technology for safety and productivity best practices.

As part of Singapore Maritime Institute’s (SMI) efforts to support the maritime industry in Singapore, a research grant amounting to S$5 million has been allocated to promote research through this thematic R&D programme. The Simulation & Modelling (SAM) R&D Programme aims to support projects involving the research and development of innovative technologies, approaches and ideas towards simulation & modelling for maritime applications.


Programme Themes

  • Risk Management
  • Human Factor Studies
  • Maritime Training & Operation

Asset Integrity & Risk Management (AIM)

Awarded on 02 Nov 2015

In oil & gas E&P, safe and reliable operations are of paramount importance to the industry. Asset integrity should never be compromised and risk management is critical to ensure lives and marine environment are safeguarded.

With enhanced oil recovery techniques, operators are stretching the existing reserves with assets that are reaching their design service life. These aged assets are often susceptible to failures due to mechanical degradations and harsh offshore environment.

Oil exploration has also inevitably moved into deep-sea as shallower oil wells become depleted. The offshore assets are installed in deeper water and are increasingly inaccessible. The associated cost of asset maintenance increases exponentially for deep-water regions resulting in the need for technological innovations in asset integrity & risk management. Integrity assessment and risk management solutions, anticipation of possible failures of systems and emergency response plans in the event of asset failures would be critical.

The offshore assets covered include offshore structures, subsea and down-hole equipment. The key research objectives are:

a) Identification of safety critical elements (SCEs)
The weakest structural components that are most susceptible to external forces, cyclic loadings and harsh environment known as safety critical elements should be identified.

b) Reduction of reliance on manual inspection
The inaccessible assets in deeper water and harsher environment drive the need for remote and autonomous inspection and maintenance which are increasingly reliant on sensor based technologies.

c) Low hardware overheads
Cost is one of the major considerations when sensors and wireless systems are installed. Such overheads include the cost of manufacturing the sensors and systems, power requirement as well installation compatibility with the existing assets.

d) High reliability systems under harsh environment
The increasingly harsh environment at deeper water with strong waves and currents as well as deeper wells with hostile chemicals and high pressure high temperature (HPHT) pose significant technical challenges. Sensors and systems must survive such environment with high reliability.


Programme Themes

  • Software Development
  • Hardware Development & Deployment
  • New Asset Installation
  • System Level Management

Projects awarded (will be updated progressely):

Joint Call for Proposals in Maritime Research between Norway and Singapore (MNS)

Awarded on 21 Mar 2016

Maritime Research between Norway and Singapore (MNS)

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (“MPA”) and the Research Council of Norway (“RCN”) executed a Memorandum of Understanding on 6th March 2000 (“MOU”) relating to joint co-operation in maritime research, development, education and training. The MOU will be extended for its sixth successive three-year term in 2015.
To further enhance this co-operation, and to facilitate the creation of collaborative projects between the research communities in Singapore and Norway, RCN, MPA and Singapore Maritime Institute (“SMI”) have launched a joint call for bilateral funding of research projects in mutually agreed fields. A total of NOK 15 million is available from RCN for Norwegian partners and up to S$3 million is available from SMI for the Singaporean partners.

Research areas covered

The call is in the field of maritime research. The applications in this call must cover one or more of the following topics:
Maritime arctic research
  • Operational decision support systems and logistics solutions
  • Emergency preparedness, prevention & response

Maritime navigation safety

  • e-Navigation
  • Vessel Traffic Management
  • Data analytics on traffic pattern and risk
  • Ship-shore communication
  • Internet of things at sea

Ship operation & safety

  • Simulation & Training
  • Human factors studies
  • Unmanned ships
  • Remote Piloting
  • Control Room Systems
  • Hull structural design

Green shipping

  • Green fuels
  • Energy efficiency
  • Ballast water
  • Hull cleaning
  • Optimizing routing and operation
  • Hull and propeller design
  • Energy saving devices
  • LNG Bunkering in Shipping

Ship-port operations

  • Port optimization
  • Smart ports

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (Amm)

Awarded on 01 Aug 2016

Oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) has inevitably moved into harsher operating environment. While oil price has slumped to a very low level, industry is focusing on technology developments to lower the cost of E&P. The fundamental sciences such as chemistry, physics and materials have attracted more attention than before in seeking innovative and disruptive technologies to enhance operational efficiency and improve reliability.


Operations in deeper waters with strong waves and currents pose challenges on structural integrity. Operations in Arctic pose a different set of challenges with extreme low temperature. As industry moves into ultra-deep wells with extreme high pressure and high temperature (HPHT), higher reliability is required in meeting the performance specifications to ensure safe and reliable operations. The underpinning material sciences in different operating regimes are the fundamental challenges to the increasingly harsh E&P environment.


Industry is also constantly innovating new materials for offshore applications as well as smart materials which allow more perimeters to be measured for condition monitoring of offshore structures and processes.


SMI through its engagements with the industry and academia has identified the following research thrusts and corresponding research focus areas under the grant call.  The materials covered in this grant call should be used in offshore structures, subsea and down-hole equipment with the following key research objectives:


  1. New materials development and materials enhancement to meet the operating needs under harsher environment while maintaining cost competitiveness
  2. Smart materials developments which allow condition monitoring and improve operational efficiency in the E&P lifecycle
  3. Testing methodologies developments to improve the accuracy of materials assessment and/or allow in-situ assessment to determine real-life residual life and fatigue conditions
  4. Enhancement of materials processability to improve performance and reliability of processed materials and structures


Programme Themes

  • New Materials Development
  • Materials Enhancement
  • Material Testing
  • Material Processing & Manufacturing

Maritime Sustainability (MSA)

Awarded on 04 Jan 2016

Given its location at the crossroad between East and West trade, Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world for commercial shipping and maritime services. Last year, the Port of Singapore welcomed more than 135,000 vessels and handled a total of 560 million tonnes of cargo. The maritime industry is an important part of Singapore’s economy as it is one of the fastest growing economic sectors, contributing to 7% of Singapore’s GDP.

To address one of the key challenges facing the maritime industry on sustainable shipping, research and development into innovative technologies to transform maritime transportation and port operations will enhance both regulatory compliance and better service offerings by the industry.

SMI through its engagements with the industry and academia has identified the following research areas and possible corresponding research topics under the Maritime Sustainability grant call to support maritime developments and environment protection:


a) Ballast Water Management
Possible Research Topics include Detection and Measuring Equipment / Treatment System, Treatment Technology, and Risk Assessment for Ballast Water Management System.


b) Exhaust Emission Control
Possible Research Topics include Scrubbing / Cleaning Technology, Tools and Systems.


c) Ship Noise & Vibration
Possible Research Topics include Simulation & Modelling, Materials, and Ship Design and Construction.


d) Port Sustainability
Possible Research Topics include Port Air Emission Control Technology, Cleaner Energy for Port, Port Waste-to-Resource Management, and Energy Conservation.

Programme Themes

  • Ballast Water Management
  • Exhaust Emission Control
  • Ship Noise & Vibration
  • Port Sustainability

MPA and SMI Joint Call for Proposals 2020 on Harbour Craft Electrification

Awarded on 01 Oct 2021

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) have awarded funding to three consortiums led by Keppel FELS Limited, SeaTech Solutions and Sembcorp Marine, and comprising a total of 30 enterprises and research institutions, to research, design, build and operate a fully electric harbourcraft over the next five years. These electrification pilot projects will demonstrate both commercial and technical viability of specific use cases for full electric harbourcraft and will support Singapore’s broader plans to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the maritime transport sector.


Harbourcraft Electrification Projects

No Consortium lead  Consortium members Project Scope
1 Keppel FELS Limited


  1. DNV
  2. Eng Hup Shipping

(Vessel owner/operator)

  1. Envision Digital
  2. Surbana Jurong

IHLs/ research institutes

  1. Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
  2. Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore
To develop Solid State Transformer based shore charger & electric kit on an existing 30 pax ferry
2 SeaTech Solutions International (S) Pte Ltd


  1. Batam Fast Ferry Pte Ltd
  2. Bernhard Schulte (Singapore) Holdings Pte Ltd
  3. DM Sea Logistics Pte Ltd
  4. Jurong Port Pte Ltd
  5. Kenoil Marine Services Pte Ltd
  6. Lita Ocean Pte Ltd
  7. Marina Offshore Pte Ltd
  8. Rina Hong Kong Limited Singapore Branch
  9. Sterling PBES Energy Solutions Ltd.
  10. Yinson Production Offshore Pte Ltd

(Vessel owner)

IHLs/ research institutes

  1. Singapore Institute of Technology
  2. Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine, Singapore
To develop a full electric lighter craft[i]
3 Sembcorp Marine Integrated Yard Pte Ltd


  1. ABB Pte Ltd
  2. Durapower Holdings Pte Ltd
  3. Jurong Marine Services Pte Ltd
  4. OPL Services Pte Ltd
  5. Rolls-Royce Singapore Pte Ltd
  6. SP One Pte Ltd
  7. Tian San Shipping Pte Ltd

(Vessel Owner/ operator)

  1. York Launch Pte Ltd

IHLs/ research institutes

  1. A-STAR Institute of High-Performance Computing
  2. Nanyang Technological University
  3. National University of Singapore
  4. Singapore Institute of Technology
To develop and build a full electric ferry for 200 persons for a specific route
[i] A lighter craft is a vessel used for the carriage of dry or packaged cargoes.