The leading fair has a leitmotif: Digitalisation in the shipping industry is the main topic of this year's SMM. Smart Shipping – comprehensive network integration of ships and smart use of data to enhance efficiency – is a common theme throughout the exhibition halls and expert discussions. "Digitalisation is a key factor for the future success of this industry," says Bernd Aufderheide, President and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress.
The Maritime Future Summit at SMM 2016 marks the first time the fair hosts a special conference on digitalisation and smart shipping. Digitalisation is also at the heart of the three other SMM conferences, which focus on environment protection, maritime security and defence, and the offshore sector, respectively. In addition, SMM visitors can follow the "Digital Route" to study digitalisation-related products and services offered by the exhibitors.
With more than 2,200 exhibitors from 66 countries, 93,000 square metres of exhibition area, and around 50,000 expected visitors, SMM stays the course in spite of the crisis in the shipbuilding industry. "We're especially pleased to have been able to further increase the share of foreign exhibitors," says Aufderheide. More than two thirds of the exhibiting companies are based abroad. A number of countries are presenting their combined maritime know-how in national pavilions; this year Iran, Malaysia, India and Greece, among others, are taking advantage of this opportunity for the first time.
The newly erected Hall A5 which is focussed on alternative and environmentally compatible propulsion technology enlarges the SMM exhibition area by 3,500 square metres. “The new exhibition space brings an additional highlight to SMM this year,” says Aufderheide. The new Hall A5 has been fully booked for weeks.
During the SMM opening press conference, Uwe Beckmeyer, Parliamentary Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Industry, underscores the importance of the sector for Germany as an industrial nation: "German shipbuilding and supply companies enjoy an excellent reputation all over the world. They are known for their innovative technologies and advanced engineering skills. We support this industry so as to preserve its strengths and build upon them.”
New ideas are especially in demand in times of economic difficulties, emphasises Thomas Rehder, owner of the shipping company Carsten Rehder: "If you want your fleet to remain competitive, you have to address every single efficiency-related aspect," says Rehder who is on the board of the German Shipowners Association VDR. Making better use of available information and correlating data from various sources is just as important as the combined efforts to reduce ship fuel consumption and the resulting noxious emissions, he adds. “SMM provides customers with an overview of recent technological achievements while allowing them to compare solutions from different vendors,” Rehder points out.
As a place where manufacturers and service providers can interact personally with customers, the fair provides ideal conditions for finding tailored solutions for specific needs, adds Dr Alexander Nürnberg, Managing Director of MacGregor Hatlapa, and Chairman of the Board of the Marine Equipment and Systems working group at the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA). "The offshore and shipping industries should not sit on their hands waiting for the economic upturn. For those who are willing to join forces and take action there are plenty of opportunities to improve the situation right now,” says Nürnberg who also heads the development department of the shipbuilding supplier MacGregor. SMM might just lend some fresh impetus to such initiatives.
Dr Reinhard Lüken, General Manager of the German Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Association (VSM) praises the German industry’s exceptional capabilities in systems engineering. "Germany is not only home to several hundred highly specialised, world-class maritime technology companies but also offers tremendous expertise in integrating complex systems. The digital revolution renders these essential success factors even more important. This is why the maritime innovation initiative as well as excellent professional training are top priorities at VSM,” Lüken stresses. More than ever SMM is a source of inspiration and new opportunities for the maritime sector, he adds.