Practical uses for IoT in ship management

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. For ship managers who want to keep a close eye on their fleet, the internet of things (IoT) is a dream come true. Maritime IoT devices increase engine efficiency, decrease maintenance costs, and reduce the frequency and severity of breakdowns. For the crew on board, IoT cuts down on administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on their core tasks.

In simple terms, the internet of things connects physical objects to a network. Ashore, IoT devices can include smart light bulbs, moisture sensors to water your plants, and a growing range of health-tracking gadgets. IoT blurs the line between physical and digital objects by connecting the physical and digital worlds. By providing a continuous stream of data, IoT unlocks the power of big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). 

How can IoT improve ship management?

The strength of IoT isn’t in the sensors and the network, but in the data they provide. Ship managers can use ML models to analyse the data from IoT components, alert the crew to any anomalies, and suggest tweaks to improve compliance and efficiency. By reducing the risk of equipment failure, IoT could even reduce insurance costs.

Regulatory Compliance

Inmarsat’s 2018 Industrial IoT at Land and Sea: Maritime report found that 47% of shipping respondents collect data for environmental monitoring. Every year, the regulatory environment for ships becomes more stringent, requiring ever-increasing measurements and records. Sulphur caps, emissions requirements, SEEMP/EEDI, oily water separators, security and cybersecurity requirements are a few of the more recent requirements. IoT helps prove compliance while reducing the administrative burden on the crew.

Energy Efficiency Optimisation

Sensors embedded in IoT components enable continuous monitoring of the condition of hull, machinery and other equipment. Embedded sensors can collect more detailed and relevant data than surface-mounted sensors. Both the on-board crew and ship managers ashore can benefit from accurate real-time data. 

The Industrial IoT at Land and Sea: Maritime report found that, in 2018, 65% of ship owners already had IoT-based fuel consumption monitoring; another 9% planned to introduce it within 12 months. Since fuel accounts for more than half of ship operating costs, IoT cost savings can be significant.

Predictive Maintenance

Normally, we replace or maintain equipment at fixed intervals whether it needs it or not. With IoT components, ships can carry out predictive or condition-based maintenance instead. 

Predictive maintenance uses ML models to compare current data with similar data from before a known failure of the equipment. The models identify patterns and alert us when we need to repair or replace the component. For machinery and hull monitoring, this avoids unnecessary maintenance and replacement and simultaneously reduces breakdown frequency and off-hire time.

Voyage Management

Should the master choose the shortest route or the fastest? Is it worth taking a longer route to avoid ice or bad weather? Where are the ships in your fleet? What’s the ETA at the next port? IoT gives ship managers alternative ways to answer these questions. The crew is happy because they don’t have to constantly update the office; the office is happy because they’re not always waiting for information from the crew.

By combining propulsion system data with weather and route data, and live ship tracking, ship managers and crew can collaborate to optimise speed and engine configuration throughout the voyage.  

Stores and Spare Parts

Ships have to be self-sufficient for long periods. Many seafarers waste inordinate amounts of time hunting for stores and compiling inventories. From medicine to spare parts, IoT is a well-tested and efficient solution to inventory management in other industries. IoT automates inventory tracking and reporting, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Cargo management

Is your cargo at the right temperature and humidity? What forces is it experiencing? Where is it, and when will it get to the destination? No matter which cargo is involved, IoT improves monitoring and tracking. Particularly for container ships, real-time tracking with IoT saves time and effort and helps to avoid cargo claims.

What are the problems with IoT?

In the past, information technology (IT) systems managed data on computer systems, and operational technology (OT) systems managed physical systems. The IoT blurs the line between IT and OT, potentially exposing both physical systems and data to cyber-attacks.

Cybersecurity presents a challenge to all IoT systems; attacks on IIoT systems, like those on board ships, can have even more severe consequences. Worldwide, organisations and manufacturers are developing standards and guidelines to address the cybersecurity risks of industrial IoT (IIoT) systems. It’s critical that we consider those risks when designing and implementing IoT solutions in the maritime industry.

Which companies work in ship management IoT?


Ship management companies face a cumbersome process to monitor, log and explain any security breaches on their ships. DigiSeas’ IoT-enabled smart sensors provide robust 24-hour surveillance, instant alerts and detailed logs in the event of any security breaches.


ThinkPal provides ship monitoring solutions. Near real-time feedback and alerts about engine and equipment parameters, weather, and more help in efficiency and time management.


METIS’ fully-automated data acquisition system fetches, cleans and stores data from on board equipment. This helps monitor CO2 and fuel consumption, and demonstrate compliance with the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).


Augury’s advanced sensors, diagnostics and actionable insights enable predictive maintenance. Wireless sensors collect vibration, temperature and magnetic data to diagnose machine health. Their secure cloud service compares the data to recordings from similar equipment and alert the user to any developing malfunction.


LoginNo‘s FlexiTrack system includes portable tracking devices and software to track anything, from shipping containers to schoolchildren. Simply place the tracking device in or on whatever you want to track, and you’re good to go.

In a shipping container, the tracking device has a GPS locator, smart environmental monitoring, intrusion detection, long battery life and several years of data storage. It can report to and integrate with any system or smartphone, letting you track your assets from anywhere.

Is IoT for ship management worth it?

In a competitive market with rising costs, a better question is: can ship managers afford not to invest in IoT? All respondents to Inmarsat’s 2018 Industrial IoT at Land and Sea: Maritime report expected to use IIoT fuel monitoring solutions by 2023. On average, they expected to see 14% cost savings within five years. IoT technology, security and connectivity are steadily improving. Off-the-shelf IoT equipment is readily available, so it won’t be long before the absence of IoT devices on a ship will be more notable than its presence.