All posts by maritimeinsight

This time it’s different

Sometime in the not so distant past, a bit less than 20 years ago in fact, I had the enviable task of reporting shipping’s first dotcom boom.

As a youngish and eager journalist (together with a colleague who these days has a proper job in the industry) I observed legions of start-ups spending a great deal of other people’s money on what was then quaintly known as e-business.

The value destroyed and money wasted was impressive, at least equivalent to the number of lunches we were bought by execs swinging through from The Valley and elsewhere, intent on revolutionising shipping.

One of the most illuminating aspects was how keen some established industry names were to get involved, lending their backing to projects that in some cases would barely render more than a few lines of code.

The era of digitalisation in which we now live – shipping 2.0 or industry 4.0 depending on your perspective – has all the makings of a second dotcom boom (with one exception, of which more later).

The tell-tale signs are all there: hot money pushing novel concepts from the retail and B2C markets, the return of disintermediation, this time as disruption, venerable shipping names getting all misty-eyed about concepts that sound great even if they don’t appear to have a business model.

It’s easy to see where the exuberance comes from. The era of hyper-connectivity in which most of the developed world now exists, has created a sense that this time, it will be different. The constraints are off the bandwidth, Moore’s Law is either dead or dying, cloud computing is available on demand and the connectivity of everything means that anything is possible and nothing is certain.

Except that, if you use any one of the many digital platforms to look for videos of seafarers doing their jobs, or ships actually carrying cargoes, its quickly clear that this is only partially true at best.

Despite years of having to tolerate endless name-checking of Uber, Air BnB, HyperLoop and the rest in presentations, shipping remains a nuts-and-bolts business which exists because of the investments made by people with the money and physical relationships that start-ups can only dream of.

The bits of shipping that can be improved with Apps and connectivity are many and varied, but for the most part they are also marginal.

The fact that many of the problems that existed in 2001 still exist in 2018 tends to suggest that either people are happy with the status quo, or that the improvements that might result are too small to be worth the investment.

They are at last receiving some attention – fleet management, bills of lading, better information and data analysis, the parlous state of shipboard cyber security – to name but a few.

If we look at the rather bigger picture, the case can easily be made that shipping needs a makeover but the challenges here are a bit more physical.

The biggest of all – decarbonising the industry sufficiently to bring down greenhouse gas emissions to 2008 levels by 2050 – will rely on fuels which mostly don’t exist or aren’t yet widely used in shipping.

No Smartphone app is going to solve that, and yet an industry which until recently has appeared to be surprised that it will have to comply with sulphur regulations in 2020 seems untroubled by the fact that it will need to be 70% more efficient in barely more than one 25-year vessel lifespan.

There’s no question that – unlike 2001 – we are living in an era of actual digital transformation, but as we have discovered in our private digital lives, the changes it brings are not always what we expect or even what its progenitors would have us believe.

The vexed questions of data privacy and access, standards, competition and co-operation need to be answered – and let’s not forget they have existed as long as the industry itself.

Making information available faster does not resolve problems, in many ways it multiplies them. Just ask the manager of a data-enabled fleet as they wade through terabytes of performance data to find the needed piece. It’s also why there are still shipbrokers, 17 years after LevelSeas rather foolishly predicted it would replace them.

And the major point of different between this dotcom boom and the first time around? Well this time, there will be no China-powered super-cycle to save the markets and distract everyone from the cataclysmic waste of time and money that enveloped shipping for a few brief, exciting years. I suggest we enjoy it while it lasts.

Buy in July? MSI tips Capes for strong six month performance


Buy in July? MSI tips Capes for strong six month performance

Consultancy forecasts strong Q4 rates for large bulkers as iron ore producers continue to ramp exports and supply side remains benign

London, 19 July 2018. Capesize spot rates could rise above $25,000 per day in Q4 if iron ore exporters meet planned shipment targets, with the upside cascading into the Panamax market as shippers consider splitting ore cargoes, according to the latest Dry Bulk Freight Forecaster from Maritime Strategies International.*

The dry bulk market continues to enjoy a strong summer in the sun, with average spot rates increasing in June for all benchmarks except Handysize. By early July, Capesize average spot rates surged to almost $25,000/day. Positive sentiment is evident in one year T/C rates too, which have maintained a premium over spot for all bulker benchmarks.

China’s appetite for iron ore has been a core support to the bulker market, with Australian exports 13% higher year-on-year in June and Brazil up 2% yoy despite the loss of exports from the Minas Rio and Samarco mines. Despite efforts to close outdated steel capacity in China, production has been extremely strong: May’s output was a record 81.1m tonnes, up an astonishing 12% yoy.

“MSI remains positive for bulker demand in the second half of this year, with the principle increment coming from Australian and Brazilian iron ore to China, marginally offset by softer near-term coal demand and expectations that soybeans trade will be lower than last year,” says MSI Dry Bulk Analyst William Tooth. “The supply-side outlook is broadly benign; MSI forecasts fleet growth overall in 2018 will be 2.3% yoy. There is limited upside risk to this view if scrapping underperforms, In an extreme low scrapping scenario fleet growth could be up to 2.9% yoy.”

China’s import demand for iron ore and coal remains the key driver of bulker freight rates, so far offsetting any negative impact related to the brewing US-China trade war. But MSI cautions that its forecast of Capesize spot rates above $25,000/day in December is relatively cautious given that its Base Case outlook assumes that Vale will miss its export target of 390m tonnes this year, an aim which it reiterated in early July.

“Aside from Samarco, which will not restart output this year and the Minas Rio project, which has been closed for three months, the disruptions to iron ore trade in the first half of this year have broadly come to an end in Brazil,” adds Tooth. “As a result, the six-month outlook for Capesize freight rates is unquestionably strong, even though we think Vale will deliver less than predicted in Q3 and Q4. Overall we forecast Capesize spot rates of over $25 k/Day in December, but Brazil’s exports are a source of significant upside risk to this view.”





* To receive the MSI Dry Bulk Freight Forecaster, please contact MSI:

About Maritime Strategies International (MSI)
Since its inception in 1986, Maritime Strategies International (MSI) has established itself as one of the shipping industry’s foremost independent research and consultancy firms. Our success is built on a strong focus on maritime economics and econometric modelling. We provide a comprehensive range of advisory services, including forward valuations market forecasts, reports and commercial consultancy services for all shipping sectors. MSI asset price forecasts are used by ship finance providers holding 40% of all shipping bank debt and we provide analytical and methodological support to give the context and credence to our results.

For further information and interviews, please contact Neville Smith, Mariner Communications Tel: +44 7909 960 182.



They think it’s all over…

If you’re a football fan (and let’s face it for the past two weeks, you’ve had little choice) you’ll have your own favourite encomium. Whether it’s Bill Shankly’s immortal ‘it’s not a matter of life or death, its more important than that’ Alex Ferguson’s ‘Bloody Hell, football, eh?’ or the Brazilian catch-all ‘the ball is round, anything can happen’.

And the fact is, that for Brazil, it did. And Germany. And Portugal. And Argentina. And Spain. Italy and The Netherlands never even qualified.

Hosts Russia, not to mention England, have done better than expected, together with talented but unfancied Croatia. It’s never certain which version of France will show up, but so far they have looked sharp and united. And Belgium, a country that didn’t have a government for months and is really three provinces that don’t get along, also looks a strong contender.

And as many a studio pundit (ex-player, usually in good shape, wearing a slim fit shirt and a chunky watch) would say, it just goes to show how little we know. The England manager has won praise in this country at least by bringing new blood to the party and rather than underestimate his opponents’ strengths, played to his own.

This has been the best neutrals World Cup for a decade – I’d go so far as to say it’s one watched by more wives, girlfriends and partners too because in every single game there’s a chance that the opposite of what we expect will happen happens.

What can we learn from this? Well it’s too simplistic to talk about shipping as an analogue for football but there are conclusions we can draw from the general similarities in three football-style soundbites.

Read the article here.

Closing the gaps between people and machines

Man vs Machine Competing in the Future
Man vs Machine – Competing in the Future?

The airline industry is often held up as an exemplar for maritime to follow with its greater standardisation, tighter risk control and more efficient operations. And while shipping is moving towards more digital operations there remain as many differences as similarities.

Airlines are rightly wary of autonomy because their public profile means acceptance is much harder than for an industry often hidden from public view. What it shares with shipping are problems of fatigue, safety training and maintaining navigation skills.

Airline consultant Harry Nelson says that like shipping, airlines learn primarily from what goes wrong and the subsequent investigation but says “we’re running out of opportunities to do that. The light signals are where the interesting information is.” Fatigue is always present on some level but even airlines do not measure it well. Until there is a better methodology of measuring risk-based decisions, he thinks airlines will keep autonomy at arms’ length.

In practical terms pilots and officers of the watch have much in common. Flying an A380 from China to Europe, with waypoints across Mongolia 600 miles apart Nelson said that sitting still, looking at a line in the distance and not speaking made it very hard to stay awake. “I call young pilots ‘children of the magenta’ because they were born watching the horizon disappearing into the distance. That means you are only as good as the database that’s providing the information.”

Masters, watchkeepers and even insurers would surely sympathise.

Founder of Hempstead Maritime Training Christian Hempstead trains mariners on navigation software and hardware and expresses a similarly unorthodox position. To begin with he says, the focus on situational awareness is misleading. There are many kinds of awareness but there is too often a lack of understanding of what devices do.

“The autopilot may not clearly show you clearly when its next going to turn and sometimes it glides right past the waypoint just to surprise you. That’s the level of understanding we have to train watch officers for. It requires an understanding of the technology and the functioning of the GPS or whether the chart is showing the real water depth,” he says.

Unlike a pilot, Hempstead is walking around the bridge ‘dancing from one machine to the next’ dealing with too much light in the wheelhouse or adjusting screen displays. “The way the equipment is spread out in different places not conducive to cognitive ease, it’s a really difficult thing to master.”

President of Bluewater Crew Training Brian Luke trains both airline pilots and seafarers and says the attitude to training for technology and automation is overdue for change. He estimates about half of students buy into the process, the other half go through the motions. “As a result, we have had men and women operating ECDIS vessels for 20 years but when we bring them into the training centre we discover they have no idea how to operate the ECDIS. So how good is that tool at that point?”

Read the full article here.

Five technology trends to watch for in 2018

ChipWhenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, the great Mark Twain remarked, it is time to pause and reflect. The New Year seems the perfect time to do just that and given the issues that have occupied the industry in 2017, it seems only right to take a gently sideways look at what might happen in the year to come.

1.) More, not less emphasis on humans

The first few weeks of the year have already seen one news story after another pointing out the number of incidents and accidents that are caused by human factors. As has been observed many times, this is a little like saying that taking risks can be dangerous.

Any time spent onboard ship or even in port will quickly demonstrate that shipping is in many ways one of the least digital industries around. What it needn’t be is dangerous and this is where technology comes in.

One of the arguments made for autonomous shipping is that removing crew will make it safer. In addition to there being no evidence for this assertion, what it hides is the fact that people are going to be more not less important to the digital future of shipping.

Shipping has until recently been a low cost, margin-focussed business that arguably doesn’t value the skills of sailors highly enough. Given its challenges it is hard to argue that the current model needs to change and shipping should be well positioned to take advantage of automation.

But the fact is that when talking to those who will make it happen, the industry must learn to be patient. What it will need in the meantime is to understand that it needs to better train, equip and nurture its talent, something it talks about a lot, but doesn’t always practise.

2.) The Autonomous Frenzy Cools

For related reasons we may well see a change in the conversation around autonomy in shipping. That doesn’t mean that we won’t still hear too many people who know too little about it exercising their ignorance in public, but behind the scenes the emphasis will shift.

This began towards the end of last year when IACS chairman Knut Orbeck-Nilsen told London Shipping Week ‘the goal is not autonomous ships, it’s safer shipping’. It was a welcome development – though it should be stressed that the guest speaker preceding the panel debate had also laid out a legal landscape of risk and liability that swept away any of the simplistic predictions made to date.

This is a market that so far has been vendor-driven and it is worth remembering that actual projects numbers two at the time of writing. The development of the technology will continue – and continue to improve – that much is unstoppable.

What needs to happen next is less about the industry being sold a glossy digital version of the future and more about where the need really lies, how it is best fulfilled and whether an industry that employs 1.5m seafarers is ready for a change of this magnitude.

The commonly-heard refrain that ‘it won’t happen until after I’ve retired’ is fine for those who made their living in the old economy. For the reasons noted above, we need more brainpower on this problem and less marketing.

3.) More data, not all of it big

Shipping might like to think itself as advancing at speed into a data-driven digital future but the fact is that for many shipowners, the priority remains simply assembling some kind of strategy that can enable them to make some basic improvements to their fleet performance.

Again, this is not the case across the board, but for every data management centre and operations hub there are dozens of owners who appear to believe that shipping is still a gut feel, rule of thumb market.

This is less true than it was – a generation of shipping scions with MBAs has seen to that – but it is equally true that digital transformation requires a new skillset that even MBA students won’t necessarily have acquired.

Not for the first time, there is need to separate the consumer technology experience from the business-to-business environment. Some of the most powerful solutions in shipping do not necessarily mean big data – tracking thousands of containers still yields a relatively small data stream and demonstrating similar value that can be monetised can still be a challenge.

As anyone who has spent time in a corporate environment will know, large projects tend to sap time and resources and can be seen as a distraction from core business. As Martin Stopford noted in a recent conversation “shipping companies are not good at writing big programmes that are also user-friendly”.

4.) Fintech yes, Bitcoin no

Anyone looking for a bubble this year is as likely to find it among the start-ups and software companies as in the offices of shipowners. Yes, there will be plenty of owners who will see the uptick in demand and the declining orderbook as an excuse to go long on the markets, but the really hot money is going to be digital.

Whether one views crypto-currencies like Bitcoin as a potentially systemic risk to financial markets or simply another speculative investment tool, it has been impossible to ignore the market’s inherent volatility.

What is less well understood is that Bitcoin is just one of many examples and it is the underlying Blockchain technology that really provides the opportunity.

Despite decades of work by a handful of pioneers, shipping remains a paper and cash-intensive business. The distributed ledger technology of Blockchain is a foundation that could be used to underpin smarter contracts for bills of lading and waybills, charter parties, regulatory compliance and more besides.

Its fiendish complexity and the weight of computing power required to power it means we are unlikely to see it used onboard ship anytime soon, but that won’t stop more and more companies announcing partnerships to study its suitability for a whole range of applications.

5.) More hacks and attacks

One thing we can predict with certainty is that 2018 will be a year of more hacks, cyber-attacks and bitcoin ransoms. If the Maersk hack of 2017 was a wake-up call for the industry, then shipping is still only rubbing its eyes.

Barely a day goes by without another cyber product being rolled out to great fanfare and it wouldn’t be surprising to find that owners are somewhat confused about what they should do and how.

There is confusion too, between the seriousness of the potential risk to shipping operations and the apparent lack of basic level training for those at the sharp end. That could be seafarers charging phones on the ECDIS, or bored superintendents too tired to tell a phishing email from a genuine one.

The best practice guidelines are out there (for free) and there is no shortage of advice and products from flags, insurers, class and other service and communications providers, some of which must be paid for, much of which come as part of already contracted services.

It would be foolish to speculate on what might happen but there is a growing feeling among regulators that this is not an issue that shipping can tackle by itself. The concept of shared risk – the network effect that could spread infection from ship to shore, to port, to local authority is a very real one.

Shipping is not having a ‘Weinstein moment’, but maybe it should

With the debate raging about the conduct of those in high office and positions of power and how to hold them to account, it seems we are in autumn of discontent. And rightly so.

Accusations of personal misconduct, the abuse of authority and the ability of the rich to avoid tax have combined with the mood of opposition that drove the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s election and the growth of popular discontent across Europe.

There may be little direct comparison between the harm experienced by victims of abuse and the ability of elites to legally circumvent national laws, but the confluence of these events has created a palpable feeling that a genie is out of the bottle.

I would contend that something similar is happening in shipping, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the IMO process of agreeing a consensus on how shipping should pay for carbon has descended from gentlemanly disagreement to internet trolling.

Second, the bunker market, for so long a redoubt of questionable practices and poor product quality, is under intense pressure to clean up its game.

Lastly, the industry seems to finally have accepted that abandoning crew, unpaid and alone in foreign ports is not just an issue for welfare charities, but rather casts a shadow that is at least as long as any positive messages it can convey .

It was interesting to hear a colleague remark of allegations that industry lobbyists had ‘taken control’ of the IMO process in the same terms as the accusations swirling through film and theatre; ‘everybody knew, nobody said anything’.

The alleged evidence, released by InfluenceMap suggested that the IMO committee process has essentially been hijacked by corporate interests (read: shipowners), using national delegations to lobby against stricter targets for carbon reduction.

The response was the sort of outrage that simply makes the cynical believe there must be something to the rumours. Salvos back and forth, through the press, social media, official announcements and everything in between, have resulted in the whole business setting tongues a-wagging.

This is despite – or perhaps because of – the industry declaring itself satisfied with the outcome of the IMO intercessional meeting around which this melee centred. Also perhaps because the European Commission agreed to give shipping a pass on inclusion on the emissions trading system, though this had been widely expected.

One particularly passionate outburst carried in the trade press resulted in a Twitter account – ownership unconfirmed – trolling the author until he was forced to resign from a teaching post. His crime? For laying bare his own experience at IMO of when industry lobbying removed the teeth from regulation he was backing on safety grounds.

The author’s general point was that we should stop deluding ourselves about why people are in shipping and accept that decisions are made principally for financial reasons. Nobody is in this for the good of their health or that of the planet and to suggest otherwise is simply deceitful.

And what of the issues that have dogged the bunker market for years? Quality, quantity, reliability, veracity; all have been a problem for owners, yet as consumers they have seemed to accept a string of poor practices part of the process.

This seems to be coming to an end. Greater use of mass flow meters will make simple cheating on deliveries harder. The IMO 2020 sulfur cap will to a large extent remove the problems associated with heavy fuel oil quality because few owners will be consuming it.

Higher quality low sulfur material will be the fuel of choice, though to begin with, owners and associations are concerned that the rush to meet demand could result in some unstable blends hitting the market.

In practical terms, the higher costs of buying, storing and supplying the fuel could mean that small operators find it hard to maintain their positions and cede business to bigger concerns. That could be a shame for good family concerns, good if it forces bad actors out of the market.

On a corporate basis, greater pursuit and punishment of offenders and the removal of licences from fraudulent operators suggest that courts and regulators are more prepared to act where in the past they might not. One only need read the trade news headlines to see numerous current and former operators being called to account.

So lastly, to the problem of crew abandonment, a subject much on the mind of some editors and industry observers, all the more so since the offshore supply vessel market shows no signs of improving anytime soon. It is a sad fact that shipping will always attract some operators for whom the financial imperatives noted above do not translate into a long term commitment to their market or the professionals they employ.

While this remains within the industry’s ‘four walls’, it could be seen as the usual rough and tumble of the markets, however wrongheaded an assumption. When it appears on local and national news (as it has in the UK in recent weeks) it is a shameful reflection of how irresponsible some operators are prepared to be.

Few people could have lately watched the footage about the crew of an OSV abandoned in Aberdeen to wonder what more they could have done; some giving up and going home unpaid, others prepared to stick it out until the vessel was sold, in hopes they would be in line for some compensation.

When the editor of one trade publication has to write to the industry’s leading shipmanagers and suggest to them that working with these owners should be off the table – and the majority reply in the affirmative – one senses that the Rubicon has been crossed.

It would have been even better had every major industry association immediately lept on this initiative and backed it to the hilt, but it could be that there is too much to lose to make very strong comments in public.

Of course, there are other issues for the industry to confront, many of them far more problematic than where rich people hide their money, why countries act the way they do in support of their national interest and whether trust or fairness can ever truly exist in business.

On balance, shipping is nowhere near a ‘Weinstein moment’ in which a the drip-drip of complaint turns into a torrent and the ability to avoid the news becomes impossible.

Perhaps though the timing is right, in the sense that, with many analysts broadly optimistic about a return to better earnings, we could be seeing the start of a new era for shipping, its suppliers, employees and stakeholders. Perhaps it would be wise not to hold one’s breath here, but a bigger dose of this sort of transparency would certainly be a good place to start.

Move slowly, wear things out, then fix them

When the founders of Facebook coined the motto ‘move fast and break things’ they probably didn’t have the shipping industry in mind. As those that work in it know, few people have the shipping industry in mind unless there is an oil spill or they take a ferry.

So it is strange that an industry that has largely contented itself by keeping its head down and profitably supporting global trade since the second world war should find itself drawing so much attention from purveyors of digital disruption.

Could it be that the new generation of tech giants have reached the edges of the digital frontier and sitting around a virtual boardroom table said, ‘OK it’s time to take on shipping’? Doubtful.

The problem with this strategy, should it actually exist, is that shipping is in many ways quite happy being inefficient. Money is made from the opacity of information flows, from relationships that are not subject to much competition and very often, on the basis that while quality is the goal, price will be the final determinant.

Yet things are changing. The unpredictable impact of goal-based, aspirational regulations as well as the uncertain dynamics of the oil price are making operators realise that doing things the same in the future will not pay as well as it did in the past.

Even so, however much the trends in consumer technology find their way into our business lives, many shipowners and operators are struggling to get to grips with how technology can really benefit their operations.

Read the full post here.


Free trade trumps the perfect storm

There was a time when most shipping conferences included at least one presenter with a set of data pointing to a sustained increase in demand for commodities, goods and services well into the middle of this century and beyond.

From nearly a couple of decades in, the confidence in those assumptions looks shaky. Alongside potential disruption from technological advances, the rise of economic nationalism and changes in economic development mean that shipping can no longer rely on its position as globalisation’s silent servant.

Whereas before the financial crisis, a 1% rise in GDP growth meant a 2-3% increase in container shipping demand, the latter is now expressed in fractions rather than multiples.

Events such as the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump demonstrate the apparent willingness of administrations to use trade as a political tool while the longer term risk is that shipping demand will decline as 3-D printing becomes cheaper and more convenient.

However, just as with the arguments about the impact of other technologies in shipping, these positions bear much closer examination than they are often receive.

As Jan Hoffmann, Chief of the Trade Logistics Branch at UNCTAD pointed out to the ICS annual conference during London International Shipping Week, the liberalisation of the maritime sector is in general positive for economic development and the job is far from finished.

Read the full post here.

London delivers a new tech reality check

reality_check‘London can take it’ was the slogan designed to keep morale high during the dark days of bombardment in wartime. These days the threats to London’s survival are more economic and political, but nonetheless serious.

The impact of the decision to leave the EU loomed large over London International Shipping Week, as the organisers sought to portray a strong industry ready for any challenge.

It didn’t always feel like that in the trenches and whether or not the UK government can deliver a form of Brexit that protects the country’s ports and services industry remains to be seen.

Perhaps because we were on high alert for existential threats, another observable trend was how much time industry players spent repositioning their comments on technology, disruption and digitalisation.

This was perhaps a response to the this year’s Nor-Shipping which left participants shell-shocked and wary of a subject that had seemed to have taken on an agenda of its own. There were still skirmishes of course but plenty of reasoned debate too, enough to indicate that contrary to the prevailing narrative, the industry’s imminent destruction at the hands of the barbarians has little place in most realistic assessments of the near future.

The tone in London was one of adjustment, recalibration and in particular an understanding that critical human thinking and the human factor will be more important than ever in a digital future.

As Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping Esben Poulsen pointed out to the main LISW Conference, the term disruption ‘has become so over used as to be almost meaningless’.

The idea that Silicon Valley tech companies want to increase their exposure to an industry with as many structural problems and whose margins are as fragile as shipping’s seemed questionable. “Don’t bet on an Uber coming into shipping,” he added. “We have always been very good at finding solutions to our problems.”

Similarly the number of headlines proclaiming the imminent adoption of autonomous ships is in inverse proportion to the number of real projects. IACS Chairman and CEO Maritime of DNV GL Knut Ørbeck-Nilsson delivered some much-needed clarity about the goals and the tactics.

“The aim is not autonomous ships,” he said. “The aim is a safer and more efficient shipping industry.”

“We have a tendency with technology to go from one extreme to the other,” he continued, pointing out that the idea of a remotely-controlled shipping fleet remained somewhat unrealistic given that the majority of ships are not yet connected to anything that could be described as broadband communications.

It was also illuminating that leading legal commentator and honorary QC Joshua Rozenberg had, in his overview of the regulatory changes that might be required in order to make autonomous vessels acceptable to the many parties involved in shipping, described a mountain rather than the foothills. That the industry knows this of course doesn’t make it any less complex – in fact the degree of that complexity is only just beginning to dawn on many.

It was less of a surprise that seafarer unions question the wisdom of further reducing manning levels, since its members could be the direct losers. Mark Dickinson of the International Transport Workers Federation made a familiar but still important point about the need to correctly frame the debate.

“Luddites were portrayed as people who opposed technology because of the threat it posed to their jobs but what they in reality opposed was the use of technology in a way that did not enhance work and society,” he said. On that basis he was happy to declare himself a luddite, though he welcomed technology if it enhanced and improved the working experience.

So as LISW drew to an end, and the debate on new technology paused for a truce, perhaps the most important conclusion to draw is this.

The adoption of advanced technology, whether robotics, data or AI, will have huge implications for humanity, society and work; implications that that have yet to be resolved or in some cases properly understood. Given the lack of standards, consensus and legal frameworks, why should shipowners be expected to roll over at the first salvo from manufacturers with a product to sell?

This is not to say the industry can avoid change. It must adopt a more collaborative, less confrontational approach to its customer relations and business models, prepared to engage with and not merely destroy the competition, as well as understanding its place in the supply chain. The advance of connectivity and the transparency it will bring leave little alternative.

I was talking about old times and new technologies with a colleague who was on the inside of shipping’s dotcom boom in 2001. At that time, the industry was awash with other people’s money and tech companies that promised either victory or death depending on your role in the industry.

It proved to be a phoney war but the stakes are much higher now. The difference between 2001 and 2017 is that the coming few years will not be marked by the euphoria of sky-high markets that came to the industry’s rescue between 2002-2008.

Overcapacity, under-profitability, inefficiency, not to mention a welter of ever more costly regulatory compliance mean that for the industry a war of attrition lies ahead. To win – smartly and as quickly as possible – it needs new weapons and perhaps new leaders too.


Leading industry figures gather in Naples for ‘Shipping & The Law’

Important names from shipping, ports, finance, law, insurance and technology will meet to discuss the pressing issues facing the maritime industry

Naples, Italy, 25 September 2017. The eighth edition of the international Shipping and the Law conference, organised by Studio Legale Lauro, will take place on October 12 and 13 at the Court Theatre of the Royal Palace of Naples.

The conference will include participation from a number of leading figures from shipowning, finance, law, insurance and other players from around the world. The conference concludes with a Gala Dinner in the Apartments of the Royal Palace, hosted by CR MAG and SMIT.

The conference procedings will be officially opened on October 12, followed by a welcome from well-known Naples lawyer and conference organiser Francesco S Lauro. It will be followed by a roundtable: Full Steam Ahead in the Age of Uncertainty on important challenging topics, among them the threats and the opportunities for European operators in the context of the rise of maritime China and other Asian countries.

The panel will also consider how the maritime world confronts global warming and the future of shipping in the age of growing protectionism, particularly the uncertainty created by Donald Trump, Brexit and other new political movements.

This session will include contributions from the president of the International Chamber of Shipping Esben Poulsson, the president elect of the European Community Shipowners Associations (ECSA) Panos Laskaridis, the president of Confitarma Emanuele Grimaldi, the president elect of Confitarma Mario Mattioli, the director for Waterborne Transport in Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport within the European Commission Magda Kopczynska.

Also taking part will be past presidents of the Union of Greek Shipowners and of the ECSA John C. Lyras and Thomas Rehder, chief economist of the Sheikh Yamani’s Center for Global Energy Studies Leo Drollas, the president of Banchero Costa Lorenzo Banchero, political analyst Roberto D’Alimonte, RINA CEO Ugo Salerno and member of the UK House of Lords Baroness Byrony K. Worthinghton.

The morning session will be moderated by Terry Macalister of Tradewinds and David Osler, Finance Editor of Lloyd’s List.

After lunch hosted by Palumbo Group, the conference proceedings will continue with a session dealing with shipping and port infrastructure finance with the participation of owners, bankers and investment fund managers, as well as the president of the Port Authority and vice-mayor of Antwerp Marc Van Peel and president of the Port Authority of Naples Pietro Spirito.

Among others, the president and the president elect of the Italian Young Owners Andrea Garolla and Giacomo Gavarone will take part to the proceedings.

The morning session on October 13 Law and Shipping will be opened by former International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds Director Mans Jacobsson’s keynote addess on Compensation for pure economic loss in relation to tanker oil spills. Past president of London Maritime Arbitrators’ Association Clive Aston will introduce a roundtable with CMI vice president Giorgio Berlingieri, Ince’s Ian Cranston, General Counsel Scorpio Group Luca Forgione; arbitrator and mediator St Philips Stone Chambers Jonathan Lux and Hill Dickinson partner David Pitlarge.

The final session of the conference Better Vessels for a Better World, moderated by Umberto D’Amato and Alberto Moroso, will be dedicated to new technologies. Participants  will include a representative of Tefin who will speak on a new system to prevent fires on ro-ro vessels, while Board member of Caronte & Tourist Lorenzo Matacena will talk on gas propulsion. Among the speakers there will be also representatives of Wärtsilä, WindDG, ABB, as well as Ecospray’s Franco Porcellacchia.

A post conference programme will follow on the island of Ischia commencing in the evening of Friday October 13 and concluding on the afternoon of Saturday 14.


To register for the conference, please visit:

For media enquiries, including attendance at the conference, please contact Neville Smith on:, tel: +44 7909 960 182.