Göteborg: With shipping at heart, Lena Gothberg is developing her own company with a bunch of free-floating projects, consultancies and part-time bits and pieces – GIGS.
After four years with the Institute of Shipping Analysis, where supply of strategic input and business intelligence was the main focus, Gothberg is now keen to do something different. “In the middle of a paradigm shift it is obvious that business models previously used need to be updated,” she tells Maritime CEO.
The shipping industry needs to open up to the broader changes that society in general are experiencing, Gothberg reckons.
One of the key takeaways from her time as secretary-general at the Institute of Shipping Analysis is that it is almost only the large shipping companies, which can afford to have a strategic plan and stick to it.
“Too many shipowners are busy keeping an eye on the day-to-day business – trying to survive – to take a step back and wonder about what the future holds,” she says.
The shipping industry has to take advantage of the digital tools available and thereby raise the profile of the industry and showcase this most exciting industry, she urges. Too many shipowners are too secretive about their business, which is increasingly going to be a problem when it comes to attracting the next generation to career in shipping.
Gothberg sees the next generation of maritime leaders coming into the industry – the second, third or fourth generation of shipowners, born after 1980, with a different view on how to do business and who are used to modern technology. “We are in for a revolution,” she stresses, noting that the biggest challenge is to transfer all the experience from previous generations into the future business models.
There are, Gothberg claims, very few people who have in-depth insights to the industry paired with a natural interest for marketing and communication, a niche she intends to capitalise on. Her role varies depending on the project. “I make inspirational speeches, develop digital strategies, hold workshops and also mentor individuals who are new to the digital arena,” she explains. Her dream is to start a maritime pod and that is what’s taking most of her time right now.
Living and working in Sweden entails being in the very heart of the new ECA regulations, which has been on the agenda in every discussion, every conference, every meeting for the last year.
“It is still early days,” comments Gothberg, “especially since there is no consistency in how to control and sanction ships that do not comply, but as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. ECAs have become a game changer for the Scandinavian shipping community – there are so many innovative ideas that have been let loose now, just wait and see.”
Turning to the markets, Gothberg says the usual cyclic business pattern has been disrupted by the long financial crisis. “Those shipowners,” she says, “who usually just about survived until the next upturn are now struggling. Their ships need to comply with the new regulations, either by MDO or by installing scrubbers and continue with the HFO, and that calls for extra capital, which is not available since the market value of those vessels has fallen, sometimes below the existing loan on the vessel. A chicken and egg situation which politicians now have started to pay attention to, looking into the possibility of using the resources of the European Investment Bank and the World Bank.”
Many ships are becoming obsolete, she reckons, as the industry is undergoing a shift to green tech vessels, which in turn has an impact on the length of the contracts cargoowners and shippers are willing to sign on to, bringing new challenges to shipowners.
Falling oil prices have given “artificial respiration” to those shipowners who have put their heads in the sand and taken the wait-and-see attitude and just decided to go for the marine diesel.
Concluding, Gothberg notes: “In spite of the cascade of regulations the shipping industry has been exposed to lately, there are more to come. The question is whether the shipping community has realised how to influence the process, or not.” [12/01/15]