Japanese shipping majors decry growing protectionism

As is traditional at this time of year the heads of Japan’s big three shipping lines all published their New Year’s messages today with the CEOs of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line), Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) and Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) all decrying the rise in global protectionism.

Junichiro Ikeda, MOL’s CEO, admitted in his speech: “The external environment has become increasingly uncertain in terms of the global political and economic picture, mainly due to strained US-China relations and the possibility of a hard Brexit.”

In his final new year’s address as president and CEO of K Line, Eizo Murakami voiced similar concerns, saying: “[T]he trend towards protectionism, which has arisen in recent years, has grown even stronger, in particular the development of America First policies by the United States has had a major destabilising effect around the world.”

The New Year’s speech made by NYK president Tadaaki Naito also contained some concern about the troubled global trading scene. Naito used his speech to look at how the planet might change in the coming 30 years.

“The United Nations has predicted that the global population of 7.6bn people in 2017 will grow to 9.8bn in 2050. Much of this growth will be in Asia and Africa, and within these regions, India is expected to see a population growth of 300m people and overtake China as the world’s most populous country,” Naito observed.

“The climate is also expected to change,” the NYK boss continued with the UN recently suggesting temperatures could rise by a couple of degrees by 2050.

“As a result,” Naito said, “abnormal weather events will occur around the world, and the ocean environment, including Arctic ice and coral reefs, will be negatively affected, and the impact on agriculture will be unavoidable.”

MOL’s Ikeda went on in his speech to discuss the sulphur cap, which is set to hit shipping from Janauary 1, 2020.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the enforcement of these regulations will mark a major turning point that will have a crucial bearing on the success of the MOL Group as well as the marine transport industry as a whole,” Ikeda said, adding: “We have less than one year left to prepare. Operational concerns notwithstanding, we need to reexamine whether our preparations are adequate on the sales and marketing fronts, and identify any hidden risks.”

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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