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Conservative shipowners will cease to exist: Thomas Wilhelmsen

Shipping can no longer afford to be conservative, the head of one of the most progressive Scandinavian shipowners has argued.

Thomas Wilhelmsen, group CEO of the eponymous family run shipping group, claimed at a conference hosted by Norwegian bank DNB that those in maritime who remain conservative will simply go out of business.

“With the amount of data available now, combined with technology providing new opportunities, our options and possibilities to create value for our customers are different today than just one year ago,” Wilhemsen said in comments relayed via the company’s internal newsletter.

Wilhelmsen discussed projects his company is currently working on including drone deliveries to ships, 3D printing in port and smart ropes with sensors now running a live pilot.

“It is more fun to be in in the forefront of developing the maritime industry, than to be just someone who comes in later and adopts what everyone else are doing,” Wilhelmsen said.

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. According to Wilhelmsens website, Smart Ropes have sensors built in which give instantaneous feedback on the amount of tension, usage, longevity etc. to a base station located on deck. These apparently enable crew to moor their vessels “safely, accurately and efficiently”. Having said that, it seems that Wilhemsen are involved in the development of the ropes, so it may not be an entirely independent assessment!

  2. Being Conservative is NOT a bad thing in business. Taking on the latest greatest advertised technology with longevity proof can be detrimental to any business. Those machines and software apps that have proven over time to be reliable can be incorporated into business at a known profit and loss. However if you have the capital to take the risk and know how to manage the risk, new technology is also a highly profitable venture. Most companies do not know how to manage the risk therefore they will be the “conservative” businesses that make a lower but steadier profit.

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