MOL boss warns disruptive innovations will reshape shipping

Shipping should not shy away from opportunities brought around by the so-called sharing economy with the leader of Japan’s largest line vowing to be at the forefront of disruptive innovations likely to sweep through the industry.

In his new year’s address to employees entitled ‘From uncertainty, opportunity’, Junichiro Ikeda, the president and CEO of Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), discussed how the likes of Amazon were changing supply chains and how vital it was his staff understood the developing needs of their clients.

“[W]e can see that dominant players, such as Amazon, have brought about a transformation in the way goods are distributed in society and have had a tremendous impact on the conventional retail sector,” Ikeda said, adding: “The so-called sharing society has transformed the notion of personal ownership of property and the values of individuals, and these changes have become apparent in many different aspects of our daily lives. These innovations have provided us with benefits in terms of convenience and cost effectiveness, in conjunction with steadily transforming the workings of society.”

MOL has made a raft of announcements in recent months regarding developing its own smart shipping technology, something Ikeda is clearly passionate about.

“The shipping industry is not shielded from these trends,” the MOL boss continued in his speech on how online is reshaping the global economy. “No one should be surprised to see disruptive innovation reshape the shipping industry at any time. Know that once we can clearly see the change, it is already too late. The frontrunners who instigated the change have already set their sights farther ahead.”

With just shy of 800 ships on its books, MOL is one of the world’s largest shipowners. On April 1 this year it will transfer its container division to the Ocean Network Express (ONE), a new outfit made up of the liner divisions of MOL and compatriots NYK and K Line. ONE will be a “major turning point” for MOL, Ikeda said in his new year’s address.

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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