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SMW 2019: Sea Asia Global Forum panel discusses industry outlook

10 Apr 2019

The Sea Asia Global Forum on Tuesday (9 April), organised as part of the Sea Asia 2019 conference, featured discussions on key issues facing the maritime industry, with veteran leaders representing both ship owners and cargo interests on the panel.

The panel consisted of: Erck Rickmers, Chairman of E.R. Capital; Andreas Sohmen-Pao, Chairman of BW Group and Chairman of Singapore Maritime Foundation; Tan Chong Meng, Group Chief Executive Officer at PSA International; and, Soren Toft, Member of the Executive Board and Chief Operating Officer at A.P Moller – Maersk A/S.

Moderated by Teymoor Nabili, Journalist, Broadcaster and Managing Editor at TheSignal.asia, the panel discussed both the short and long term outlook for the industry – noting the recent and continuing pace of change in an evolving and uncertain economic environment, the adoption of new technologies, and a need to adapt operations for a more sustainable future.

While this uncertainty was acknowledged by the panel, Sohmen-Pao provided a positive view, highlighting that maritime industry's importance has never been greater. Pointing to China's growth, his view is that there remains a significant opportunity for the industry to continue to thrive, as demand for the supply of goods globally continues to increase.

Broadly, the panellists see the IMO 2020 regulations as a positive step change for the industry but acknowledge that more detail is required to understand how they will be overseen.

In this context, the panellists also canvassed the potential for a carbon tax. Toft, Sohmen-Pao and Tan agreed that a carbon tax is an important step to encourage the industry to address climate change. Tan stressed that any tax needs to be applied to all players in order for the industry to remain competitive and fair for all.

Toft added that it is important for the industry to invest for the future and one way to do this is to channel revenues into R&D to address decarbonisation in shipping.

While the maritime industry is largely seen as lagging behind in adopting new technology, Rickmers said that it is ready to adopt change. While it may take a little more time, he is positive that the shipping industry will become as digitised as other sectors.

The opportunities presented by digitisation was discussed, namely the ability for technology to improve communication between shore workers and sea farers, as highlighted by Toft, who said the use of sensors on ships enables the teams to work together to optimise operations. Digitisation also provides huge potential for the industry to more easily and efficiently increase volumes of trade globally.

The panellists also assessed whether the maritime workforce can keep up with the adoption of these technologies. In response, Tan highlighted that graduates in the maritime sector can look forward to greater opportunities as they enter the workforce better prepared and multiskilled.

The Forum concluded that it is imperative for companies, regardless of their role within the industry, to focus on customers' needs. Toft said that with the uncertain economic environment and current pace of industry change, businesses need to be customer-centric to better deliver their solutions, while remaining relevant to future supply chains.

Photo credit: Sea Asia 2019, UBM
Published: 10 April, 2019


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