Friday, June 11, 2021

Container Line Goes Out of this World to Face the Future of Ocean Shipping

New Agreement with Space Agency
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – Nobody could accuse the management at French container line CMA CGM of sitting on their hands when it comes to promoting new, forward thinking initiatives over the past couple of years.

Having recently stepped up its airfreight operations, decreased its environmental footprint through a series of LNG powered ship purchases, sponsored new technology on the 2020 Vendee Globe ocean race and hydrogen power on the water and supported start up innovation incubator Ze Box, now it seems space really is the final frontier.

Meeting at the Toulouse Space Centre on Thursday 10 June, CNES Chairman & CEO Philippe Baptiste and Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman & CEO of the CMA CGM Group signed a unique agreement. CNES is the Centre National d' Études Spatiales, the French National Centre for Space Studies.

The five-year agreement will call on the respective expertise of CNES and CMA CGM to identify, design and develop innovative solutions together to serve shipping, logistics and the space industry. Under the agreement, CNES and CMA CGM’s experts will be focusing on a range of topics including:

  • Smart ship routing to enhance safety at sea to aid crews and closely manage shipping’s environmental footprint. Data on currents, winds and waves will notably help to further optimise sea crossings and make them safer while developing effective management of future hybrid ship propulsion systems.
  • The maritime energy transition, through sharing of experience with hydrogen, and practices for producing, storing, distributing, filling and using this future ‘green’ fuel, exploiting economies of scale to make it a viable prospect.
  • Upgrading of port activities and infrastructures, employing digital technologies to ease flows and paying special attention to environmental impacts.
  • Contributions of the space sector to optimising logistics in order to develop a reliable and sustainable end-to-end service for global tracking of goods.

Under their partnership agreement, CNES and the CMA CGM Group, both members of the French Maritime Cluster, will be working with start-ups and SMEs and relying on their entities charged with supporting business development and start-ups (ZEBOX, CMA CGM Venture and Connect by CNES), as well as on CMA CGM’s R&D teams.

These focus areas were defined through Connect by CNES, the space agency’s initiative to put its expertise to work in helping firms develop innovative products and services leveraging space technologies and solutions. Analysis has concentrated on seeking ways of exploiting space data and services to enhance mobility management in the maritime sector.

This approach ties in with CMA CGM’s ambition to forge partnerships outside the shipping industry and offer innovative and disruptive solutions to build the shipping and logistics of the future for its customers and to preserve the environment. CNES Chairman & CEO Philippe Baptiste observed:

“Creating activities from satellite data and services for our societies is a major focus of action for us at the French space agency. This agreement signed with CMA CGM, one of the world’s leading shipping and logistics players, is a perfect illustration of our desire to reach outside the space industry, notably to the mobility sector, which is a priority area for Connect by CNES alongside the environment and healthcare. This cooperation will also allow our two organisations to mutually benefit from each other’s excellence.”

During his visit, Rodolphe Saadé was given a tour of the control room of Cospas-Sarsat, the global system that collects, locates and forwards distress signals from emergency beacons, and the facilities at the French Operations Centre for Science and Exploration (FOCSE). Satellite-based data service providers CLS and Kineis also presented their smart ship routing and space-based Internet of Things (IoT) solutions designed to meet the digital needs of ship owners. The French shipping line boss commented:

“CNES is world-renowned for its space expertise. This unique partnership will cement our innovation strategy, enabling us to benefit from technologies developed by CNES, be it to optimise our operations or to support our energy transition.”

Photo: Rodolphe Saadé (L) and Philippe Baptiste (R).