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.
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