As 2015 draws to a close, we pause to reflect on the past 12 months which have certainly been interesting, challenging and at times confusing in terms of the signals that the global market place has been sending out.
Topping this very dynamic landscape and seascape has been a keen interest to try and get ahead of the trends in order to position ourselves for the anticipated better days ahead. Unfortunately, such jockeying of positions appears to have only compounded what was already a challenging situation. The net result turning out to be what Alan Greenspan once described as “irrational exuberance” in terms of the behaviour of many towards the different markets that we engage in.
It has not helped that, aside from the economic challenges we face, political and security flashpoints around the world have added yet another layer of uncertainty which have removed the cyclical predictability that we have all been yearning for. Be it:
- the continuing threat of piracy globally that preys on our vessels and crew
- the migrant issue that threatens to overwhelm all sectors as being yet another humanitarian crisis
- including the rescues at sea, for which InterManager was heavily involved with other trade associations and multilateral agencies
We must not discount the on-going discussions on fatigue and the unceasing administrative burdens on board, which can only really be resolved if governments come together and take significant steps forward to streamline the myriad of reporting requirements. Inroads have already been made with the EU as well as with Non-Governmental Organisations, such as the International Harbour Masters Association (IMHA), towards promoting this concept of the “paperless ship” as a ‘must have’ in the near future, as opposed to leaving it just as a far-off idea.
Nor should we forget the importance of InterManager’s continued presence at the IMO, where a changing of the guard as Secretary General Ki-Tack Lim takes the helm from outgoing Secretary General Koji Sekimizu, ushers in a new era and agenda which we need to be keenly aware of. We are happy to note that in 2015 George Hoyt, an InterManager Vice President, has been appointed as an IMO Maritime Ambassador to help attract “the best and the brightest” into shipping.
On the back of the unprecedented global acceptance of new controls on emissions coming out of the Paris COP 21 discussions, shipping needs to be even more engaged seeing the complicated arrangements through. Not to mention the Ballast Water Management Convention coming into force. At the end of the day, the devil is indeed in the detail and the ease by which agreements are to be implemented and their impact on shipping, particularly on ship management operations, is something we cannot take for granted.
In spite of all the turmoil, and the extended down cycle that we have lived through since 2008, we remain optimistic, even if a little guarded, that the cycle will prevail and that better days will emerge. This has always been the case and, notwithstanding the numerous swings that have prevailed, an upturn will always follow the downturn, no matter how long it takes.
For an industry that ‘moves the world’, as is shipping’s venerable role, our bearing towards calmer waters remains true. And on this latest voyage, InterManager has remained steadfast in its challenge to all these issues. Our way forward will, therefore, require several elements:
- What I previously described as the 3 Cs – cooperation, coordination and even consolidation where needed. Scale is inevitably the name of the game and the ability to find creative ways to effectively scale management solutions is what will allow ship managers – be they in-house, or third party– to remain in the game in the face of dynamic uncertainties globally
- A keen eye on the future – this being 2030 and beyond. Keeping the pulse on changing ship technology, and on envisioning and even driving more predictability in the people, process and technology interfaces that will serve as the platform in which to efficiently operate in the years ahead; and
- Unwavering effort to attract the best and brightest of the next generations – Millenials –from all over the world, to consider a career in the shipping industry, which inevitably will include a career at sea. We must, however, go beyond attracting talent and ensure that, across the board, meaningful and challenging careers for the new entrants can be mapped out, which will go a long way towards retaining this much-needed talent for the future
The way of the future must involve an appreciation of what technology can do for management, particularly in the era of Big Data; a continuing challenge of how things are, versus how things might be better done or executed – looking at emissions control and ballast water as two tricky elements that we need to find acceptable and effective solutions for; and a commitment to continuing to enhance the skills of those already in the pool of talent, both at sea and on shore, while preparing the next generations of new entrants to be even better prepared and armed, skills wise, than those they follow.
In all this shipping has always been, and will always be, an industry that will serve front and centre. How we shape our image will play a key role in the manner in which we are to be accepted; in the various fora that will increasingly dominate the global landscape of diplomacy and commerce, and through different trade agreements that more and more are reshaping the economic world around us.
Shipping must find ways to be engaged and to be part of the on-going dialogue across all fronts. This ultimately means we must strive to drive more rationality and forward long-term thinking into the equation of ship owners, ship managers and crew managers. The days of ‘easy money’ are gone. The way forward is to make money the old fashioned way – to earn it. And shipping will make this happen, but it can only be in such a position if all parties realize the need to coordinate, cooperate and even consolidate.
We can take heart that our industry remains firmly in the game, as there is no other way to manage the work required particularly with global trade at the forefront of economic development. We clearly have a role in the future. How we execute that role will ultimately determine the success that each stakeholder will have.
A MILESTONE TO OBSERVE
As we say goodbye to 2015, we also take this opportunity to pay tribute to a man who, for the past 40 years, has given much of himself to an industry he has grown up in and for which he exudes a tremendous passion for. Roberto Giorgi, recently conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award at the CrewConnect Global Conference in Manila, takes a final bow from V.Ships Group on December 31.
A salute to Roberto from all of us at InterManager. He has been a fierce competitor, partner, visionary and advocate. An individual with both nautical bearing, in terms of a direction he set for himself from early on, as well as natural bearing in the manner in which he projected himself for and on behalf of V.Ships, InterManager and the industry. It is indeed a milestone to observe and celebrate.
Meantime, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families Happy New Year and all the best as we welcome 2016.