Annual Review: The year shipping grew up

I’d say – with some considerable relief – that 2019 was the year shipping grew up. After the toughest decade imaginable, those that have made it to the end of this century’s angst-ridden teenage years are determined to be more in control of the 2020s.

Take the orderbook as a bellwether – during this year it fell to its lowest levels against the extant fleet this century. Admirable restraint? Or a reflection on the uncertain outlook, both markets-wise and regulatory?

When it comes to regulation, the biggest names in shipping decided firmly this year to take matters into their own hands.

Whether it was the creation of the Getting to Zero Coalition or this week’s news of a proposed $5bn bunker levy to go towards research and development of greener ships, shipowners got on a more united front foot this year, determined not to get enmeshed in another epic, years-long wrangle with regulators. That said, the new president of the European Commission and her Green New Deal will have put many in shipping on edge, fearful of regional rules.

Keeping to this more mature theme, while the global sulphur cap naturally dominated headlines all year long, it was noticeable how shipowners and operators, by and large, shrugged off the enormity of the impending change and just got on with preparations. Any cock-up that emanates in 12 days’ time is more likely to be down to the failings of the bunker suppliers.

The market vagaries endured by owners since the global financial crisis 12 years ago have meant that those that are still about know all about efficiency, conservatism and timing. The brutal times have also engendered consolidation on a scale hitherto never experienced in merchant shipping. A bonus of this consolidation has been that the shipping community is able to act more as one voice than before. Entering the next decade, this united, determined and proactive voice will be vital – the arrows will be slung shipping’s way in greater, more piercingly accurate volumes.

Our own year

Before handing over to The Freaky Wave for his take on the year, a quick word on what’s been brewing over at Splash Towers this year. We’ve seen our readership grow by another 35% in 2019, launched our first subscription title, Splash Extra, while our Maritime CEO Forums made a European beachhead with our debut in October at the Monaco Yacht Club.

Going into 2020, our goals are the same as they have been every year since we founded Splash – to bring readers exclusive, incisive news, views and data – to be your one-stop shop for all maritime information. If you have ideas on how we could improve, please do get in touch. Now, it’s time for shipping’s finest cartoonist to have the last word on 2019.

Wishing all our readers a great festive season and hopefully some rather Roaring Twenties coming up!


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Merry christmas and a happy new year. I read all your articles – this website is great to keep in the loop of the maritime world. I say that as a professional mariner.

  2. The flatness of the order book may also be due to the fact that so many banks have had their fingers burned over the past 10 years and have closed out their shipping loans positions for the foreseeable…no money no honey as they say …

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