Digitalization in the maritime industry – Interview with Jens Engelbrechtsen

Digitalization is a really hot subject over the last few years. Everywhere You can listen that digitalization will take over some job places. Digitalization in the maritime industry is starting slowly. All modern concepts are always a little bit delayed in the maritime industry. However, digitalization is also coming slowly to this area. You can check our post about Big data in the maritime industry.

Interview guest Jens Engelbrechtsen

Digitalization in maritime industry specialist

Mateusz Bialas: Hello Jens, Could you introduce yourself and your area of expertise to our readers?

Jens Engelbrechtsen: I am a 52-year-old guy from Denmark who graduated as a captain – commercial and fishery on a small island called Fanoe. To be more accurate Fanoe navigation school in 1993.


Autodidact in basically everything from the computer science area. Holistic integration of MES & ERP Software systems, Automation Software, Mechanical Engineering, Machine & Deep Learning, Data Science, optimization of processes. I work with technologies like Python, .NET, C#, VB.NET, XAML 3D & WPF. Except studying computer science for 2,5 years, which I abandoned as I didn’t feel that it met my expectation. This was too boring for me.

Mateusz: From a captain to modern technologies with autodidactic. This is very impressive and shows people that You are not forced to do just one job. I think You can inspire some people to change their qualifications.

Digitalization of industries and so-called industry 4.0 are very popular slogans these days. How would You describe in simple words to our readers, what digitalization means?

Jens Engelbrechtsen: Basically you can say :

The integration of digital technologies into everyday life. By the digitization of everything that can be digitized.

Mateusz: In my opinion digitalization and green fuels are two main topics for the development of the maritime industry in this decade. What are the main benefits of the digitalization of processes and data in the maritime industry?

Jens Engelbrechtsen: Automation and optimization in cargo planning, logistics, and fuel consumption handled purely by AI in the nearest future. For example, Maersk is at the moment hiring 5000 + engineers to develop such systems over the next 3-5 years.

Digitalization in maritime industry

Mateusz: 5000 engineers, this is a huge project! Digitalization is a very wide domain. In your expertise is also programming of algorithms and AI. How do You see the role of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Deep learning methods in industrial applications?

Role of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in industrial applications

Jens Engelbrechtsen: The legislation part is still in a very early stage. There are many ethical questions that need to be addressed. (at least in the I nations and western societies) before the major evolution can take place.

There will be a conflict of interest in the future. In fact, globalization will make billions unemployed especially in the 3 rd. world countries. At the moment I see a distinct need for segregation between AI-related interaction with humans, and AI in industrial processes and production.

I don’t like to spy on or access algorithms.

Artificial intelligence - Digitalization in maritime industry

Mateusz:: AI is a great thing. People don’t even know that, we use it every day on our smartphones. I know that this question has also legislation problems, but besides that:

Do you see in the future that AI will take over the operation of the vessel?

Jens Engelbrechtsen: For sure that is a yes. At the moment on the market, we have already ROV – Remote Operate Vessels. At the moment there are mainly special units. However, they are present on the market already.

The real game-changer is when we see start going from remote-controlled to AI-operated (unmanned) commercial vessels.

Mateusz:: Big data: Another big subject, really warm for the industrial companies. More data we have, better estimations, and calculations we can make. Also, build better mathematical models. How do You see the role of big data in the maritime industry and what are the benefits of data analysis?

Jens Engelbrechtsen: It will be everywhere but brief (short).

Let me give you an example. The battery has undertaken quite some performance improvement over the last decade, but nowadays the further development/improvements are margins and at some point, it will reach its max potential.

Batteries will still be everywhere (at least till some new technology will replace it) but the ROI-(Return On Investment) in further development will tell you it will be a bad business.

Mateusz: That is indeed an interesting point of view.

How do You see the role of digitalization in the development of the maritime industry?

Digitalization in maritime industry

Jens Engelbrechtsen: In the near future we are going to see AI business brains are customized to every industry.

They will take orders like spare parts, production materials (e.g flavor and yest to bake the order of breeds from a customer) reschedule the production if needed/sell additional slots.

They will analyze the demand and set competitive prices. And there is much more examples:

  • Schedule maintenance and monitor (vision and vibration) machinery , production plants , etc.
  • Pay your supplier bills , optimize financial transactions , make sure you pay the smallest amount of corporate tax.
  • Calculate strategical decisions and risk access it
  • Well top tunned AI business operations are already on its way in all sectors and industries.

All this is just on the top of the list, there is of course much more!

Mateusz: As an expert in modern industry, You have great authority.

What would be your advice for students and young engineers, which skills they should develop?

Jens Engelbrechtsen: In fact, I foresee (I am not a fortune-teller) in the future a less demand of transportation needs. In my 2 cents opinion, the future is polymer and composites. A very simple and futuristic guess would be something like this.

3D Print a new boat or a household water boiler, car, etc.. which would mean that we in the future don’t transport a Toyota car from Japan to the EU.

There will be strategic locations around the globe where pre-processing / manufacturing assembling will take place. You pay a fee or license at a certain spot near you and voila! All the components are printed and assembled locally near you.

Ships/vessels will in future not be built in steel – and their constructions will last way longer and be possible to alter for example the construction or design, etc.. and of course, way more recycle friendly. This will also address some of the CO2 and emission problems we are facing.

Take Maersk (one of the largest shipping companies in the world) their entire fleet pollutes yearly the same as 9 billion cars. (that are more than the entire planets existing cars)

Mateusz: Thank You a lot for Your time, Jens! It was a pleasure to host you at Vessel Automation!

Digitalization in maritime industry

Digitalization in maritime industry – conclusion

Digitalization is already at full speed. Maersk has a project for 5000 engineers, Hapag Lloyd opened last year an additional IT office to cover all needs for digitalization. In addition, all other companies are also starting their own developments. Digitalization is a very wide area, benefits can be found in almost every department in the maritime industry. Doesn’t matter if You order spare parts, or You are working in the financial department. Therefore, contact specialists and start digitalization today!

Together with my guest, Jens we are waiting for Your comments, about the digitalization and modernization of maritime industry!.


  • Mateusz Białas

    Researcher of Autonomous and Remotely Controlled ships. Since 2014 in Maritime Industry. Experience gained at Ro-Ro, Ferry, Container, and Heavy Lifts, design of Navy Ships.

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M. Dz.
M. Dz.
2 years ago

I really enjoyed the interview! It could be interesting if You would like to share Your story about the journey from Captain to developer of modern technologies.


[…] This interview is shared by courtesy of Vessel Automation. See full article here: […]


[…] In our earlier interview with Jens Engelbrechtsen we discuss a lot about digitalization in maritime industry. Same like with other areas of life, […]

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