Emerging Technologies and Innovations in Shipping

Technology has already become our everyday life and it marks our path toward the future. We have just scratched the surface of new technologies, and already put them into use in various spheres of life. One of the industries that began to apply new technological achievements in abundance is certainly the shipping industry. The shipping industry and freight forwarding are the driving engines of global trade and the world economy. The development of these branches of industry is necessary for the evolution of the world economy itself. Hence, all the emerging technologies and innovations in shipping allow shipping companies to improve their performance and delivery times. The goal is to improve the results with as little resource consumption as possible. Precisely this idea is inspiring our Four Winds KSA, which has become a regional giant in international shipping and moving.

The digital revolution in the shipping industry

The basics of digitalization are converting analog data into digital form. Even this basic form led to revolutionary changes in the shipping industry. And the development and expansion of digital technologies in many ways transformed the freight business. Freight forwarding companies in Bahrain use all methods of transporting cargo, by plane, ships, railway, and road. And digitalization not only simplified paperwork and shortened data-analyzing and processing, but it completely changed the entire supply chain process. And it not only changed it but continuously improves and modernizes it. The time for ordering, delivery, and analysis of data and documents is reducing. Many other processes have been improved and shortened, from storing and customs clearance to transportation. Once a conservative industry that relied on traditional ways of doing business, today is reaping all the benefits of digitalization. That led the companies themselves to start investing in new technologies.

illustration of real finger pointing hand and digital one
Today freight forwarding companies use a wide range of emerging technologies and innovations in shipping.

Blockchain systems

Simply put, the blockchain system allows you to track, store and secure transaction data. This way of storing information is impossible to hack and breach and serves as a kind of activity ledger. Digital record keeping reduces transaction costs and paperwork, plus it connects interested parties. Another crucial trait of the blockchain system is its transparency since it shares the data publicly. Therefore mistakes and misuses are reduced to a minimum. The shipping industry can benefit from blockchain in terms of reducing manual data entry and workload. While at the same time increasing the speed of payments and sharing data in real-time. It also facilitates shipping to Saudi Arabia, which is slowly taking the lead in the region regarding new technologies.

Cloud-based technology enables remote access to data and prevents their loss. And at the same time provides a safe and constant connection between the crew and companies headquarters on land. This technology automates and simplifies ordering and delivery processes. And also allows customers to choose their carrier and preferred service for sending shipments. NourNet company stands out in the Saudi Arabia market, as a leading provider of cloud services. The company provides 24-7 support to its customers, whose IT experts monitored all ongoing orders and operations. Although Google Cloud partnered up with Saudi Aramco, to establish a new data center in KSA, NourNet still prevails. This domestic company and its services cover the entire territory, and so far has a client base of 1200 businesses in more than 30 cities in KSA.

cloud-based technologies is leading among other emerging technologies and innovations in shipping
Cloud-based technology is being applied in various fields.

Artificial Inteligence

AI is already widely used and has multiple applications in all sectors of the shipping industry. The benefits are also numerous and significant since it saves time and money. The best examples are autonomous ships and certain port operations. It can calculate a large amount of data in seconds and predict optimal shipping routes, to avoid traffic and delays. Also, it greatly makes easier and simplifies the distribution of goods in ports. AI steps in when it comes to repetitive tasks and automation replaces human labor when possible. Artificial Intelligence notably backs up the customs clearance process, by rapidly scanning and analyzing documents. Saudi customs clearance is among the first in the region that apply AI in export and import. It’s beneficial also for environmental preservation. There is a significant saving of fuel when AI calculates consumption, which also reduces the emission of CO2 and carbon print of the ship.

We haven’t gotten there yet, but autonomous ships are becoming one of the crucial emerging technologies and innovations in shipping. Those vehicles are expected to transport cargo containers with as less human interference as possible. The use of cargo ships with remote guidance and without human sailors will reduce the possibility of errors. So the expectations are that they will greatly improve safety. And also efficiency, since these systems will be able to calculate the optimum route, and fuel usage, adjust speed to conditions, and drive at optimum speed. Thus it will lead to a reduction in freight forwarding and logistics costs. Fully autonomous ships are yet to take over, but once they do, those systems will reduce human errors, and labor costs, and improve safety and fuel usage.

illustration of a woman's face as example of artificial intelligence
The main purpose of artificial intelligence is to replace humans in high-risk missions.


The future of the industry is based on robotics and the use of robots in various sectors. They have found wide applications in logistics and shipping companies. New generations of robots are excellent replacements in cases of labor shortage. But they are also used for dangerous jobs when the worker’s life is at risk, such as blasting, heavy lifting, welding, etc. In addition, they assist human workers in warehouses with lifting, sorting, and loading/unloading goods. And considering the huge amounts of cargo daily, it is clear that robots are irreplaceable in the shipping industry. Freight forwarders in Riyadh already use high technologies in shipping businesses. Robots are excellent examples of the application of emerging technologies and innovations in shipping affairs.

The development of robotics has become imperative in the shipping industry. Increasingly advanced types of robots are conquering the market. The best example of logistics robots are mobile automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Their role is to move cargo for shipping and storing in the warehouse along predetermined routes. And there are also robot arms, which can sort items or count shelf inventory. These are only a few of many examples of their use. However, the shipping industry still mostly uses mobile robots for the automation of cargo transportation. The best side of using them is the high profitability due to their uptime. And also improved organization and efficiency. Shipping industries are slowly realizing the benefits of robotics, and investing in its development. Logistics companies Middle East are the right choice if you require high-quality services supported by technological innovations.

orange robot arm is example of emerging technologies and innovations in shipping
In logistics and warehouses prevail autonomous guided vehicles.


Although at first, it may seem that nanotechnology has little to do with the shipping industry, it’s quite opposite. Along with the wages of management and crew, maintenance and spare parts are the next big expenses of shipping companies. That is where nanotechnology and advanced materials step in. Companies are starting to use sustainable materials along with metal, which still prevails in ship manufacturing. However, damage caused by corrosion due to seawater, or sea life attached to hulls comes at a cost of millions of dollars. To avoid it, companies started to use nanocoatings with anti-corrosion formulas for the protection of ships. Scientists are also working on coatings that will repel shells and algae from settling on the hulls. This creates resistance which increases fuel usage. Companies also, invest in the study of advanced materials and improving the old ones, like high-strength steel, new aluminum alloys, carbon fibers, etc.


During the past decade, the usage of drones across different industries rose. So far, they have been mostly used in agriculture, security, and real estate. But the shipping industry is also beginning to discover all the benefits of drone technology. Amazon Co. introduced the first delivery drone back in 2013, and drones have been used ever since in shipping and logistics. Their use has expanded today across various sectors, such as surveillance, maintenance support, mapping and analyzing, etc. Among all other emerging technologies and innovations in shipping, drones are widely used due to their affordability. Even an average-quality drone can reach millions of savings. Since they can conduct operations in remote and risky situations, they can replace humans in high-risk missions.

Collision-tolerant drones will become essential in the shipping industry in the near future. Their job is to explore and examine hard-to-reach and dangerous places, like tank inspections, or piers and docks underwater checkups and repairs. There are even certain prototypes, which can operate underwater regardless of weather and water conditions. Drones have also become quite common in customs and border security systems. In order for you to use a drone in KSA, you need to check Riyadh customs clearance laws and report the serial number of the drone. Therefore, you can import them and use them, but as the law requires. One more big purpose of drones is in rescue operations. They are especially effective in sea quests, where they were a key factor in search and rescue missions.

drone over the sea in the sunset
The application of drones started in agriculture, but now is one of the emerging technologies and innovations in shipping.

Green technologies

There is no doubt that traffic is one of the greatest polluters. And the damage it causes to the environment is immeasurable. Ships are big polluters since oil spills and fuel residues, cause harm to the entire marine world and environment overall. We must try to reduce the impact on our planet in every way and invest in sustainable sources of energy. In order to reduce the emission of carbon and sulfur into the atmosphere, temperature controlled shipping companies tend to adopt green solutions. What are these green solutions that shipping companies can adopt and apply in their businesses?

  • We have already mentioned the usage of sustainable materials in shipbuilding and shipping overall. Lighter and more durable materials will require less fuel and longer service life of ship parts, and therefore will be more energy efficient. An excellent example of such materials is buckypaper which is ten times lighter than steel, but 500 times stronger.
  • Shipping companies can opt for eco-friendly packaging materials instead of the usual use of plastic supplies.
  • Since 2020, the International Maritime Organization ordered shipping companies to limit sulfur emissions by 85%. This reduction made shipping via sea carriers the most sustainable way of freight forwarding.
  • Offsetting has become a widely accepted trend in recent years. It’s a way of compensating for carbon emissions, by planting trees, for example. However, this practice doesn’t prevent pollution, it only draws attention to pollution issues.
  • It is recommended to switch to liquid natural gas (LNG) which is considered the most optimal fuel in the shipping industry.
  • Switching to low-sulfur fuel such as ultra-low sulfur diesel.
  • Sail and kite propulsion systems use wind power, to help the ship move through the water.
  • Streaming underbelly bubbles reduced fuel usage by up to 5%.

Emerging technologies and innovations in shipping in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has about 20 ports and shipping terminals, of which the largest and busiest ports are in Jeddah and Dammam. These ports are using up-to-date and high-tech solutions in their shipping business. The business of shipping companies in Saudi Arabia is constantly developing and improving, within the framework of the government’s Vision 2030 plan.

busy harbor in the sunset
Dammam and Jeddah are the two busiest harbors in Saudi Arabia.

Authorities made heavy investments in this industry sector to introduce emerging technologies and innovations in shipping industry. In 2020 alone, transportation and infrastructure projects are estimated to be about $115 billion. This led to a significant increase in global trade, entering new markets and international cooperations. Bahrain customs clearance can guarantee you the quick and efficient clearance and traffic of goods on the soil of Saudi Arabia. The circulation of goods is supported by the latest technological achievements. Therefore you can be sure that your business takes place under the most favorable conditions.

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