Taking the lead

The Global Maritime Forum’s 2019 Annual Summit took place in Singapore on 30-31 October. The meeting convened the leaders from across the maritime spectrum who have the will to address the burning issues facing the maritime industry.

Resilient supply chains and changing trade

International trade made possible by maritime transport has been a critical driver for global growth and development over the last fifty years. But geopolitical conflict, a global pandemic, infrastructure and labor shortfalls, and changing trade patterns have revealed significant weaknesses in global supply chains, with grave consequences for the global economy and the lives of citizens around the world.

This has led to questions on the sustainability of the globalized economic model relying on a highly efficient transport and logistics network. To increase resilience, some are calling for a reshoring of manufacturing, more vertical integration of supply chains as well as a diversification of suppliers.

The war in Ukraine has underlined that access to food and energy is not only an economic necessity – it is also a security imperative. Geopolitical conflict, war, and sanctions are directly impacting the trade of energy commodities and could lead to widespread hunger and political instability. Both in the shorter and longer term, countries will seek to balance the need for energy security with the need to decarbonize.

To overcome these challenges, we need to improve the efficiency and the resiliency of global seaborne trade. What will be needed to
unlock new ways of collaborating in a fragmented industry?

Key questions

  • What has the maritime industry learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the current supply chain disruptions that it can use to build more resilient and robust supply chains and thus safeguard the benefits of global trade?
  • What role can the maritime industry play in ensuring access to food and energy in developing countries, which are likely to be impacted the most by the ongoing trade disruptions?
  • How can the maritime industry unlock the potential of digitalization and data sharing to increase resilience and efficiency in global supply chains?

“The global maritime industry is the lifeblood of global trade ensuring access to energy, food, and goods all around the globe. But the
events over the past 24 months have shown us how fragile global supply chains are in times of political, environmental, technological, and economic upheaval. We need to learn from these events and find ways of creating a more resilient seaborne trading system together, where the safety of personnel, including seafarers, is consistently put first and companies can thrive while serving both people and the planet.”
Dr. Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, Administrator, Panama Canal Authority


Decarbonizing shipping

Greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors need to peak by 2025, reaching net-zero by the middle of this century. Shipping must and can play its part in this transition and leaders from across the sector have clearly stated that they support this goal.

But how will the maritime industry move from high ambitions to action, and make ordering zero emission ships the default choice within this decade?

Decarbonizing shipping will require policies and regulation that create certainty about the long-term targets while allowing flexibility on the fuel pathways, incentivize the shift to zero emission fuels, and ensure a just and equitable transition while maintaining a global level playing field.

It will also require the creation of impactful partnerships involving stakeholders from different parts of the value chain and governments to establish the first green corridors where zero emission vessels can start trading, and to overcome the chicken-and-egg dilemma: To generate demand for zero emission fuels, the price must come down, which requires scaling up their production. But scaling up fuel production requires demand, otherwise it will not be economically viable.

Taking action to reduce emissions in the short term is also important, as it will have an immediate effect while at the same time reducing the cost of the transition to zero emission fuels. Potential actions include improving operational efficiency by optimizing speed, implementing just-in-time arrivals, or investing in energy efficiency. Many of these actions will require new forms of collaboration.

Key questions

  • How can leaders from the maritime industry work with governments to shape the regulation needed to decarbonize international shipping?
  • How can the maritime industry ensure that its decarbonization is managed in a globally inclusive fashion?
  • How can the maritime industry catalyze public-private collaborations to support the accelerated development of green corridors? What kind of collective planning and co-investment is needed?
  • What are the collaborative actions the maritime industry can take in the short term to reduce emissions from shipping?

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. Leaders from all sectors including maritime must play our part in
transitioning to a net-zero economy. We have the technological solutions to decarbonize shipping, but we need to come together as an industry, with governments and the maritime energy supply chain to develop the business models, partnerships and the regulations needed to make zero emission shipping safe and commercially viable at scale before the end of this decade.”
Nick Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Lloyd’s Register

Human sustainability and talent attraction

Global seaborne trade would grind to a halt without the millions of people working in the maritime sector – on shore and at sea. But in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and in light of changing demographics and increased global competition for talent, there are growing concerns about the ability to recruit and retain the people the maritime industry will need as it digitalizes, automates, and decarbonizes.

The crew change crisis revealed fundamental weaknesses in the way seafarers are treated as well as a failure of governments to treat seafarers as key workers. A critical shortfall of seafarers only risks being exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. There is thus a need to ensure that a career at sea is attractive to the next generation of seafarers and that they develop the skills needed to safely operate the ships of the future.

Attracting talent on shore is also becoming more challenging as the industry competes with high-profile sectors such as finance and tech for the best and the brightest. The maritime industry will need to become more visible, more diverse, and more inclusive, and offer attractive jobs and career pathways to a new generation of global talent drawn to purpose over profit.

Key questions

  • What is needed to attract and retain seafarers in the future, and how can their wellbeing be improved following the crew change crisis? What skills will be needed in light of digitalization and decarbonization?
  • How can the maritime industry increase diversity, equity, and inclusion to expand its talent base and create more innovative organizations?
  • How can the maritime industry increase its visibility to make it more attractive to talent and to be better placed to protect its employees in times of crisis?

“Shipping is a people industry. Our future depends on our ability to attract the right people both on shore and at sea. In a time
of global competition for talent, changing demographics and high expectations on our industry to rapidly decarbonize and digitalize, we need to up our game. To succeed we must create an industry that is recognized as offering jobs with a purpose, good working conditions and attractive career prospects to an increasingly diverse global workforce.”
Lois Zabrocky, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Seaways