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How Road Freight Technologies Are Reshaping Maritime Shipping Practices

Today’s blog is written by a guest writer, Graham Perry, a writer at Business Tech Innovations specializing in logistics supply chain optimization. With expertise in fleet management and transportation technology, his articles empower businesses to navigate the dynamic world of logistics with peace of mind.

Maritime shipping has long been the backbone of international trade, facilitating the transport of goods across oceans and connecting distant markets. However, the efficiency of maritime shipping has always been—and continues to be—dependent on interdependent variables. These include, but are not limited to, infrastructure development, regulatory frameworks, and, most critically, advancements in technology.

In recent times, the integration of road freight technologies has emerged as a potential catalyst for disrupting maritime shipping operations. These technologies are bleeding into traditional maritime practices and paving the way for increased efficiency, competitiveness, and sustainability.  

In this article, we’ll outline some pivotal advancements transforming maritime shipping and delve into how tried-and-tested road freight technologies are already featuring in this transformation.


In 2019, a report suggested that 86% of fleets used telematics systems to manage various aspects of road freight. By 2024, almost half of those surveyed indicated that telematics had helped manage vehicle and equipment location, while a third said it was useful for tracking driver location, managing fuel efficiency, and maintaining compliance.

In recent years, marine telematics has been playing a similarly pivotal role in shipping container tracking. Here are some ways GPS tracking and onboard diagnostics technologies are improving the efficiency of maritime logistics.

Real-Time Monitoring

Telematics is enabling the precise location monitoring of shipping containers, allowing logistics companies to easily optimize routes, and formulate response plans. This increased transparency and reliability is crucial to improving efficiency.

For example, in 2023, Hapag Lloyd, the world’s fifth-largest container shipping line, announced it had installed tracking devices in 700,000 containers. With this, the company has made massive strides in converting its 1.6 million-strong fleet into smart containers. This represents a turning point in the digitization of maritime shipping practices, as it employs technology used in trucking as far back as the 1980s.

Predictive Analytics

For years, IoT sensors have been deployed on trucks and containers to collect data on the condition and status of cargo. Similarly, maritime shipping companies are now using these sensors to enable predictive maintenance.

With access to large amounts of real-time information, shipping companies can address potential challenges, schedule maintenance activities, and optimize vessel routes. 

Enhanced Security

The recent Baltimore bridge collapse exposed a key vulnerability in maritime logistics, impacting major U.S. manufacturers, including McCormick & Co. and General Motors.

While the incident was unavoidable, precision navigation tools and collision avoidance systems, as offered by modern telematics solutions, can help vessels find new routes and reduce the risk of avoidable incidents. Meanwhile, geofencing and instant alert features can help authorities rise to piracy challenges and prevent unauthorized access — enhancing the overall safety of maritime shipping.

Blockchain-Based Documentation

In the last few years, blockchain has successfully shed its reputation as solely an enabler of cryptocurrency and has found its way into several critical industries.

In the transportation and logistics industry, it is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 39.78% until 2027, spurred by its many applications in trucking, e-commerce, and preventing cargo theft.

In maritime shipping, the security offered by the decentralized structure of blockchain has found takers among even global players. In 2018, the logistics company Maersk collaborated with IBM to digitize and secure its documentation process with the TradeLens platform. While TradeLens was discontinued in 2023, Forbes noted that the technology showed promise and that the failure was merely a short-term setback.

So, how can blockchain-based documentation reshape maritime shipping?

Here’s an example: In 2022, McKinsey reported that a simple shift from a paper bill of lading to an electronic bill of lading could save the industry $6.5 billion in direct costs.

This, combined with the superior security and confidentiality offered by blockchain’s consensus algorithms and cryptographic techniques, can prove to be revolutionary.

We’ve already seen this in action. In 2018, the first container processed with the CargoX Smart Bill of Lading was released in the Port of Koper in Slovenia. The bill of lading took just minutes to transfer and had a near-zero chance of loss, theft, or damage.

Maritime Fleet Management Software 

We’ve spoken about how telematics enables vessel operators to collect vast amounts of data. In the near future, fleet management software will emerge as a critical solution to make sense of this data and present it to various stakeholders in a simplified manner.

Road freight operators have employed fleet management systems integrated with telematics since the 1990s as a means to keep costs low, ensure the safety of drivers, and reduce delays. Maritime fleet management software now stands to similarly improve the efficiency of shipping practices while also helping the sector meet sustainability goals.

For instance, regulatory frameworks, such as the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) or the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), require fleet operators to monitor various emissions-related data. By leveraging a fleet management software’s mathematical models, computation techniques, and features like digital twins, operators can keep track of vessel performance metrics, ensure compliance, and avoid hefty fines.

In fact, these stringent regulations are said to be one of the major drivers of the fleet management market, which is projected to reach a staggering $55.6 billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 14.2% from 2023.

In the near future, the integration of IoT, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies will continue to drive this innovation. At the same time, the adoption of cloud-based solutions stands to offer more scalability and flexibility.

Autonomous Vessels

Over in Australia, mining group Mineral Resources and Swedish automation specialist Hexagon Autonomous Solutions ran a fleet of 120 autonomous trucks on a private road in Onslow. The opportunities this poses are huge, with big names, including Amazon, banking on the technology as a way to improve efficiency and productivity. Automation in trucking fleets is no new headline, but its implications for maritime freight could be even more transformative.

In November 2022, Maersk and Kodiak Robotics Inc. began the first autonomous freight deliveries, with Kodiak delivering eight loads per week for Maersk customers. 

In 2023, the maritime shipping industry displayed its willingness to adopt the technology developed for road freight with the launch of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship — a vessel that aims to cross the Atlantic Ocean with minimal human intervention.

Leveraging technologies such as LiDAR, RADAR, and AI, these autonomous vessels will allow operators to navigate obstacles, adjust routes, and maintain vessels without human intervention. Furthermore, autonomous vessels can be optimized to reduce environmental impact, operate in harsh environments, and adapt to customer demands.

While there are challenges that will need to be ironed out — including cybersecurity concerns and regulatory frameworks — the technology inspired from road freight advancements has the potential to completely transform global trade.

The Bottom Line

The coming decades promise to be transformative for maritime logistics. Increasing competition, rising costs, and stringent sustainability goals are driving the sector towards digitalization. As the technologies mentioned continue to evolve and mature, it’s clear to me that maritime shipping practices will need to continue to draw from proven advancements in road freight to fully capitalize on this transformation.
Graham Perry is a writer at Business Tech Innovations specializing in logistics supply chain optimization. With expertise in fleet management and transportation technology, his articles empower businesses to navigate the dynamic world of logistics with peace of mind.