Sohmen-Pao channels Bill Gates in warning of changes ahead

Speaking last night at the New Year cocktail for the Singapore Maritime Foundation (SMF), Andreas Sohmen-Pao, the boss of BW, said the Lion Republic was in a better position than most shipping hubs to weather the enormous changes coming to the industry.

The cocktails at a packed ballroom at the Shangri-La Hotel always draw hundreds of attendees.

Sohmen-Pao chose to quote the co-founder of Microsoft in his speech to warn on the sweeping tech revolutions coming to shipping.

“There are a lot of changes ahead. I think it was Bill Gates who said, ‘We overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten’,” Sohmen-Pao said.

He went on to claim that the risk is lower in Singapore, because the approach has been to think ahead about what is coming and to embrace change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

“Importantly,” he said, “the approach has been to engage the entire community of stakeholders to work together to prepare for the future, to invest in talent and innovation.”

On the markets, Sohmen-Pao, chairman of the private sector maritime champion SMF, was optimistic, telling the invited guests: “At the risk of putting my credibility on the line by making a public prediction at a new year’s cocktail event, I will say that I expect this year to be better than last.”

Sohmen-Pao is well known for his speeches, like his father Helmut Sohmen. He is also not averse from quoting famous tycoons to get his point across. Presciently, for instance, a little ahead of the global financial crisis of 2008, the BW chairman quoted US investor Warren Buffett at an opening session of local shipping show, Sea Asia, warning: “Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behaviour akin to that of Cinderella at the ball.”

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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