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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: Semi-submersible ship hulls. Buy the report here.

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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

Semi-submersible ship hull is a key innovation area in shipping

A semi-submersible ship is a specialised marine vessel that is capable of loading and unloading heavy duty cargoes in a semi-submerged condition, with most of its hull and bulk under the water surface. It obtains buoyancy and stability from ballasted, watertight lower hull located below the ocean surface and wave action. Semi-submersible vessels are used in offshore roles such as offshore drilling rigs, accommodation and construction support vessels, oil production platforms, and heavy lift cranes.

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 semi-submersible ship hulls.

Key players in semi-submersible ship hulls – 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 semi-submersible ship hulls

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 35 Unlock Company Profile
Nauti-Craft 30 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 22 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Steel 15 Unlock Company Profile
TechnipFMC 13 Unlock Company Profile
GVA Consultants 13 Unlock Company Profile
China National Offshore Oil 10 Unlock Company Profile
Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology 10 Unlock Company Profile
Crondall Energy Consultants 8 Unlock Company Profile
Horton Wison Deepwater 7 Unlock Company Profile
Naval Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Valaris 6 Unlock Company Profile
Itrec 5 Unlock Company Profile
Linnhoff Offshore 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Samsung Heavy Industries is one of the leading patent filers in semi-submersible ship hulls. It filed patents related to semi-submersible platform body configured to avoid the vertical resonance caused by wave, and devices and methods to reduce the frictional resistance in the hull of a semi-submersible ship.

The South Korean shipbuilder delivered the hull for the Appomattox semi-submersible platform in 2017, which is the largest floating oil production platform operated by Shell in the Gulf of Mexico.

Other leading innovators in semi-submersible ship hulls include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nauti-Craft, Samsung Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel.

In terms of application diversity, Linnhoff Offshore leads the pack, followed by Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology and Nippon Steel. By geographic reach, Nippon Steel is the leading company, followed by Crondall Energy Consultants and Horton Wison Deepwater.

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.