Call for regulatory sandbox to help shipping and IMO navigate digitalisation

Technology is outpacing the regulatory environment, which could put the future of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at risk, one of the world’s most famous shipping futurists claimed today. Opening a digital debate at a conference being held during the Asia Pacific Maritime exhibition in Singapore, K D Adamson, the CEO of consultancy Futurenautics, said that IMO’s failure so far to handle cyber issues could relegate it to irrelevance. “IMO will lose their legitimacy in the medium term,” she predicted, telling delegates the coming changes brought about by digitalization would be “seismic”.

Kenneth Lim, chief technology officer at the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA), had a solution to help with the regulatory impasse posed by rapid advances in technology.

Pointing out that it was not only the IMO, but most regulators in most industries also struggle to keep up with technology, Lim said:  We now need to be very open-minded – to have a regulatory sandbox to learn and observe and accommodate this digitalisation change.”

Another panellist during the digital session Mohit Batra, regional director at tech firm Enriam, argued that the key was to get a serious mindset change at IMO.

Talk of the demise of the London-headquartered UN maritime body is not new. Frank Coles, the head of tech firm Transas, told delegates attending last year’s Maritime CEO Forum in Singapore: “The way technology is changing now it will be impossible for IMO to catch up and then they are dead and buried.”

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.
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