The shipping industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increasing global trade and commerce and the need for efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable sea transportation solutions, as well as growing importance of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial and augmented intelligence, advanced vessel operation monitoring systems, and hydrogen fuel cells. In the last three years alone, there have been over 67,000 patents filed and granted in the shipping industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Ship: Gas turbine-propelled vessels. Buy the report here.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

30+ innovations will shape the shipping industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the shipping industry using innovation intensity models built on over 25,000 patents, there are 30+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Vessel propulsion systems, gas turbine-propelled vessels, and vessel internal combustion engine are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are underwater drilling support systems and anti-fouling ship hull coatings, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the shipping industry

Gas turbine-propelled vessels is a key innovation area in shipping

The gas turbine-based propulsion system for ships includes a gas turbine with or without a diesel engine. Gas turbines can be used either to provide purely mechanical power to propel the ship, or to generate electricity for driving the propeller. Gas turbine-propelled vessels emit lesser emissions than those powered by diesel alone.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established shipping companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of gas turbine-propelled vessels.

Key players in gas turbine-propelled vessels – a disruptive innovation in the shipping industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to gas turbine-propelled vessels

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Korea Development Bank 517 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings 423 Unlock company profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 197 Unlock company profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 63 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 31 Unlock company profile
Wartsila 13 Unlock company profile
Mitsui E&S Holdings 12 Unlock company profile
AFC Mercury 9 Unlock company profile
DongHwa Entec 8 Unlock company profile
Naturgy Energy Group 8 Unlock company profile
Linde 6 Unlock company profile
Engie 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

South Korea-based Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) is the leading patent filer in gas turbine-propelled vessels space. In 2019, the company, in collaboration with American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), demonstrated the high efficiency of a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) and gas turbine hybrid ship propulsion system re-using hot exhaust off-gas.

DSME and Norwegian classification society DNV also unveiled a new LNG carrier design in 2017 that uses a combined gas turbine, electric and steam (COGES) propulsion system with LNG as the primary fuel.

Other leading innovators in gas turbine-propelled vessels include Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

In terms of application diversity, Naturgy Energy Group leads the pack, followed by Hyundai Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. By geographic reach, Wartsila is the leading company, followed by Linde and Engie.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the shipping industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Shipping.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.