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How he’s rethinking maritime efficiency with data analytics
MaritimeOne scholar Ernest
Mr Ernest Lim took up a second major in data analytics with the hopes of contributing to efficient route planning in shipping. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

Seeing digitalisation as key to a greener maritime sector, this “K” Line – MaritimeONE scholar is honing skills to build systems that optimise routes and reduce shipping emissions

Ernest Lim grew up wanting  to be a diver. That was what he told his teachers every time they asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“While my classmates would say ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer’, I just thought swimming in the deep ocean would be fun,” he recalls. 

It may have begun as a mere whim, but the idea has since gained philosophical depth for him. He believes the ocean connects everything and ”in a sense, it is the lifeline of the world,” he muses.

While Mr Lim did not fulfil his childhood dream of becoming a diver, he has been steered towards a career in which the ocean plays a leading role. 

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The 23-year-old sophomore was awarded the MaritimeONE Scholarship last year for maritime studies at Nanyang Technological University, with multinational shipping company “K” Line as his sponsor. The MaritimeONE Scholarships with the Singapore Maritime Foundation are sponsored by leading maritime organisations to attract talent to the sector.

His interest was piqued, thanks to a friend he met during national service who had just completed the maritime studies course a year prior, and whose father worked at a maritime company. 

Conversations with his friend illuminated how the industry is using digitalisation and new technologies to move forward and enhance efficiency. 

Mr Lim had studied mechanical engineering in polytechnic with a minor in business and was looking to expand on his minor. He realised that the maritime sector hit the sweet spot he was looking for between engineering and business. 

Given Singapore’s deep connection and reliance on maritime trade, a career in the industry would allow him to contribute to the country’s economy and help make it more competitive in the global sphere.

“More countries are opening up, including developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. There is so much room to grow,” he says, on his decision to take the plunge and pursue a career in the maritime sector. “Singapore is a maritime nation. The economy relies heavily on this.”

Adapting to change at sea

To drive efficiency, digitalisation is key. To this end, Mr Lim took up a second major in data analytics, which he feels will be crucial to planning efficient shipping routes. 

“The maritime industry used to be very focused on getting the goods to a certain destination, but now we are more focused on how we are getting there,” he says.

Digitalisation does not just help with efficiency, he explains, but also with environmental concerns such as reducing port congestion.

“I would like to use my skills to optimise operations or digest data to come up with solutions.”

Mr Ernest Lim, recipient of the Singapore Maritime Foundation MaritimeONE Scholarship

He and a team of fellow students won the MaritimeONE Digital Challenge 2023 by coming up with a system that optimised vessel berth allocation. The system would reach out to both ship owners and port operators to coordinate vessel and berth schedules, allocating berths in a way that would maximise efficiency. 

It was an interest in sustainability and innovation that drew Mr Lim to his sponsor company, “K” Line.

“The firm has collaborated with other parties to build ships that use alternative fuels such as LNG, B24 marine biofuel and even fuels like ammonia and hydrogen are currently being researched,” he says.

Mr Lim was inspired by “K” Line’s efforts to develop more sustainable shipping practices, which aligns with his own values and goals. He is excited to start his internship at “K” Line in May. 

“So far, what I’ve been learning is from my own readings, joining competitions or my friends. This will be my first step into the working world and seeing how I can put what I’ve learnt into practice,” he says. 

For his future, Mr Lim is contemplating a role either as an analyst – which would utilise his skills in data analytics – or in the dry bulk sector. 

Unlike container shipping, dry bulk involves the shipping of unpackaged cargo in solid form such as cement or iron. Given dry bulk’s essential role in ferrying the building blocks of infrastructure and trade, enhancing operations in this area will enable him to make an impact.

“I would like to use my skills to optimise operations or digest data to come up with solutions,” says Mr Lim.

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