What’s next for shipping?

Business leaders and experts from across the global maritime community met at today’s Opening Conference to focus on the future of shipping – the industry that holds world trade together.

Delegates turned up to listen to the hard-hitting discussions that looked to, among other things, innovation, investment and transformative technology. Global geopolitical and economic scenarios were also debated.

After the attendees stood up to welcome His Majesty King Harald V of Norway, they were treated to a short piece of music by acclaimed violinist Charlie Siem, son of Norwegian shipping magnate Kristian Siem.

Sturla Henriksen, CEO of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, then welcomed delegates with an inspiring speech on the shipping industry, which he said “contributes vitally to global economic growth and prosperity.”

“This industry is key to a sustainable global economic welfare. Carrying 90% of world trade, it represents less than 3% of global CO2 emissions. That makes this industry the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation. So shipping is part of the solution.”

New Norwegian maritime strategy
In her opening address, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg referred to her government’s newly announced national maritime strategy, saying that the the Norwegian government wanted to establish a forward-looking framework for the industry.

“The industry has to invest in and adopt green technology. Norway will remain competitive by focusing on knowledge-based products. Our future lies in being smarter, not cheaper. That’s why we invest so heavily in innovation, research and development.”

The “Innovation, Investment and Regulations” roundtable then kicked off, moderated by award-winning journalist and presenter Todd Benjamin.

Thomas Rehder, Managing Partner at Carsten Rehder and President of ECSA, said that LNG was a good example of a technology that needs a kick start and Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant US Coast Guard, said LNG was a huge opportunity.

Regarding regulation, Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland said, “The maritime industry is international. We need international rules and this takes time. But we have to be patient.”

“It’s important that we have the playing field on which the industry can be proactive,” said Rehder.

Turning to technology, he said that, “If you want to make the technological leap, you must fund those that are using the infrastructure, the shipowners.”

Cyber security concerns
Zunkunft expressed concerns about cyber security, asking “Are we resilient enough?” This was echoed in the keynote address for the “What’s Next” roundtable by Espen Barth Eide, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum.

“Everything today is cyber. Any future conflict you will see will be a cyber conflict. As we become more connected, be aware that cyber space is a domain equally as important as sea, air and land,” he said. “Any strategic competition that happens in a physical sense will also happen in cyberspace. Every conflict you see in the future will be a cyber conflict.”

He said it was very important to understand that, “We are living in a world where strategic competition is back,” referring to geopolitical conflicts around the world.

The other keynote speaker, renowned strategy and globalization expert Anil Gupta, said that Asia was becoming the world economic center and that the bulk of Asia’s trade was now intra-Asia and not exports. Intra-trade was set to increase, he said. He also predicted that India’s exports would grow faster than its GDP.

Gupta and other “What’s Next?” participants discussed various international flashpoints that had implications for shipping. Both Gupta and BW Shipping Managing Director Yngvil Eriksson Åsheim said the conflict they were most concerned about today was that in the South China Sea.

“I see the situation becoming more risky,” said Gupta. “Neither side is backing down and this could easily become a more serious conflict.”

Eide said that if the conflict with Russia continues much longer, it will have effects that will outlast Ukraine.

Hans Kjelsrud, Head of Shipping, Offshore and Oil Services at Nordea, said “What’s happening in Ukraine and Russia could lead to diversification in gas supply and benefit the LNG sector.”

Leon Patitsas, CEO of Atlas Maritime, said it was unfortunate that “Whenever you have a conflict, it’s important for shipping overall” and Angeliki Frangou, CEO of Navios Group, said that “expensive oil can create new opportunities.”

The roundtable concluded that big data, more fuel-efficient vessels with less emissions, robotics and automation were in the future.

Big data is here to stay
Similarly, The Transformative Technology roundtable concluded with big data, connectivity and ship intelligence as the way forward.

“Are we ready to understand that we have to have open architecture integertion platforms for everything that happens?” said Kongsberg Gruppen CEO Walter Qvam. “Hopefully, the times for the proprietary systems are over for good.”

“It is very important to find those who are willing to try new technologies,” said Krystyna Wojnarowicz, Co-Founder of MARSEC Inc. “ But they shouldn’t be left alone to do that. We need to think big and start small. Here is where we can look for support from local governments.”