Driving Growth in a Disrupted World: Lessons from the LISW Conference

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The International Maritime Transport Week (LISW) conference took place on September 15 and saw some of the major players in the maritime industry meet at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters to discuss issues facing the sector .

During the eight-hour conference, panelists focused on different topics, including the issue of seafarers stranded at sea, regulation, COP26 and the path to net-zero.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that we have witnessed immense disruption in the way our world has functioned over the past 18 months,” IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim said during his inaugural speech. “Nonetheless, I am convinced that we can stimulate the growth necessary to support the global economy. Our deliberations during this week will play an important role in shaping contributions to these efforts. “

The challenges of maritime transport for a year and a half as well as the potential for opportunities and growth were at the center of the panel “Driving growth in a troubled world”, in which maritime and international players participated.

Here are some lessons they shared.

Customer reassurance, crew issues and decarbonization have been the biggest issues of the past 24 months

According to Mediterranean Shipping Company CEO Soren Toft, while the biggest challenge for the industry in 2020 was dealing with the unpredictability of the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, in 2021 his company and others have struggled to instill in clients the belief that they could get through it. the situation.

“Our employees and customers are inundated with problems and we try to solve them, but [this] leads to stress, working long hours and wondering if we can really make it happen, ”he said. “I think keeping perspective while we have this massive disruption is one of the biggest challenges because we have to be nimble.”

In addition to listening to its customers and reassuring them, Toft also explained that the industry must explain its role as a force for good to the general public and go digital, especially if it wants to attract young talent.

For the Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, as well as for Lim, safeguarding the welfare of seafarers was the greatest difficulty for the industry, not only because it was difficult at the organizational level to organize political processes, but also because the conventions were not applied as they should have been.

“Many governments [stated that] it was a case of force majeure, meaning that it was materially impossible for some of the conditions of the maritime labor convention to apply, ”said Ryder. “We did not swallow this argument in all cases, as we believe that in many cases governments were in serious breach of their obligations.”

Seafarers were also a major concern for Inmarsat CEO Rajeev Suri, especially when it came to helping crews stay in touch with their families. “Our job was to make sure that our technologies played a vital role in keeping them connected,” he added. “So we’ve been working hard to reduce the financial and technical burden of connecting them, by launching a series of free and low cost calling, health monitoring, training and safety app initiatives.”

Tristan Smith, associate professor of energy and transport at University College London, the main disruption caused by the pandemic was that it put aside decarbonization processes within the industry. On the one hand, Smith explained, companies that needed to develop a decarbonization strategy were “distracted” by the short-term pressure from Covid when it was difficult to “move the political process forward when you can’t anymore. bring people together in a room. ”

Despite the disruption, the industry has rebounded through resilience and cooperation

When asked about the most positive development of the period, all panelists agreed that increased cooperation at industry level and globally was what got things going.

According to Ryder, positive results have been achieved through the cooperation demonstrated both at the industry level – with opposing stakeholders such as the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Federation of Transport Workers working together – but also at the level of international organizations.

Smith pointed out how Covid-19 allowed the maritime to become less crystallized in his thinking, enabling resilience. “Being suddenly thrown into different working arrangements and a different society made people see that the changes associated with decarbonization might not be that disruptive,” he commented. The pandemic has also fostered collaboration at the level of solution providers, where previously providers were completely detached from the industry.

“Covid-19 has forced people to work together at unprecedented speed and we need to take inspiration from it and see it as something that we can apply and stick in the scientific community and practitioners who will implement decarbonization solutions” , he continued.

Covid-19 has highlighted the vital importance of navigation and navigation

Panelists believe that the pandemic-induced reduction in air travel has highlighted the vital role of shipping in keeping the global economy on the move, especially with regard to seafarers and their efforts.

“Sailors are the forgotten soldiers, working in the background,” he commented. “I am so proud of not only the people in my company but the entire industry, I think they have made an incredible sacrifice for the whole world.”

Despite the industry’s huge sacrifices, what the pandemic has also highlighted is the lack of a concerted government approach when it comes to dealing with the seafarer crisis.

“We had two sides: [on the one hand] maritime authorities, labor ministries fully understanding and being responsive to the types of situation we encountered, ”he explained. “But that did not prevail in government more generally, there was not enough of a way to reconcile the various issues that governments had to juggle at this point.”

New networks and opportunities related to climate change will emerge over the next two years

According to Suri, one of the most disruptive opportunities for the industry will be the increasing digitization across all sectors, taking a proactive approach on issues such as safety and well-being.

To give the industry the maximum communication capacity at all times, he announced that Inmarsat is working on a complete solution, “a next generation network called Rockets – the first layered network of its kind with a geosatellite connection. , satellite and 5G in one seamless solution.

Another trend that will emerge, Lim added, is that more industries – including shipping – will view climate change not only as a concern, but also as an opportunity to gain momentum for a transition. green energy.

“I believe that many other Member States, as well as the industry, will recognize the possible opportunities that arise from the challenges of climate change,” Lim said. “It will become a challenge, [because] we need a lot of investment in future fuels, but if we adopt [the opportunities] we can create good solutions.


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