Today marks a shipmanagement special in the ongoing Maritime CEO Leader Series powered by Ocean Technologies Group, featuring five of the most famous names within the sector.
The interviews show contrasting views with how international bodies have handled the current pandemic and also feature a call by one manager with nearly 400 ships on his books to relook at the issue of crew benefits.
The video starts out with Kuba Szymanski, secretary general of InterManager, who sets the scene by explaining how this current pandemic compares to previous crises faced by the shipmanagement industry over the past 20 years. This segment features an unexpected special guest star in the form of Sasza Chambers, aged 6.
Szymanski praised shipmanagers for coming together to find solutions to current challenges brought about the coronavirus.
“Shipping has not stopped for a second. Shipping is a backbone. We have been going thanks to our seafarers, thanks to people in our offices,” Szymanski said, going on to applaud international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for pushing through guidelines fast.
This latter point of view was not one shared with Frank Coles, CEO of Wallem Group, who did not hold back with his thoughts on the matter.
“From a regulatory perspective we have shown how wholly inadequate the IMO is in dealing with a crisis,” Coles said, going on to describe how “blind” shipping is as an industry.
“We’ve exposed our soft underbelly in our ability to self promote and self govern and it has greatly emphasised that maritime is a blind industry; blind in so far as we have no lobby, we have no ability to influence governments, and we are blind to everyone else,” Coles said.
The middle section of the video sees Mark O’Neil, the president of Columbia Shipmanagement, tackle the question posed on what might be the ’new normal’ for ship operations in the coming year or two as we have to get used to operating with the coronavirus always in the background until a vaccine is found.
Shipping companies will need to remain extremely nimble, flexible and adaptable, both at the executive-decision making level and in the operations departments, O’Neil said. Planning at the moment is short-term, almost on a day-by-day basis, he said.
Turning to benefits, O’Neil told the TV show, “It’s time for the employers within the shipping industry to look at the benefits which they afford their crews. The crews have been at the forefront of this Covid-19 battle, some of them have not been rotated for nine months… It is now time to look again at the whole question of crew benefits. Is a crewmember, an able bodied seaman entitled to the most basic health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, pension provisions? This is something we have certainly started to look at within Columbia to see is it affordable, is there a contribution from the crewmember, a contribution from the industry and insurers, etc on how we can facilitate that.”
Graham Westgarth, CEO of the V.Group, was up next, tasked with asking what good can come out of this pandemic mess.
Westgarth said the coronavirus had shown how vital it was to leverage all the group’s systems and communication capabilities to keep clients and employees up to speed with every development.
The video concludes in Singapore with Carl Schou, the CEO of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, who assesses whether demand for third party shipmanagement will grow as a result of the coronavirus. He pointed out that there was no great, swift surge in demand after the global financial crisis of 2008, and there was unlikely to be this time.
“What I think will happen is that many shipowners will try to cut their own costs and if they see this works or doesn’t work, depending on the outcome then we might see added activity in the outsourcing segments,” Schou said.
Shipowners might start to consider outsourcing more as a diversification strategy going forward, Schou suggested, due to crewing issues they have encountered in recent weeks.
Further shipmanagement specials are planned in the Maritime CEO Leader Series in the coming couple of months.
Launched last month, the Maritime CEO Leader Series has already built up a keen following. The full archive of interviews with many of the great and good in shipping can be accessed here.