The Nor-Shipping zoo

Of bees, dodos and ostriches. The boss of Transas, Frank Coles, gives his take on the latest edition of this year’s premier maritime show, Nor-Shipping.

Arriving at Nor-Shipping one is struck by the bees buzzing everywhere.  Buzzwords abound and in some cases it is not clear where the honey lies.  Is it in the cyber honey pot or the big data tree?  Is the favourite bee the word disruption or innovation and have we identified which species of bee is more prevalent.  I think some of it is being driven by news created by the press, almost our own version of fake news.

Are we running around like headless chickens with change coming but not quite knowing from from direction?.  There does seem to be less people behaving like ostriches with their heads in the sand.  At least some progress has been made as the acknowledgment of change is now more widespread.  That said, there still exists the dodo, the company and sector that will be dead in the near or medium future because they do not understand, don’t want to understand or simply cannot move fast enough.

I have spoken on a panel with human factor experts, fascinating to hear them acknowledge the impact of technology on change.  Also on a panel with a mixture of airtime providers and the new technologies for operations, and to realise the commodity market is scrambling for relevance as anything other than a pipe.   I also was on a panel speaking to the young in shipping.  How wonderfully refreshing that was, speaking to the young, the future and realisation that technology will reduce the prejudice in shipping, technology does not care!

What is clear to me, from the recent articles in Splash to the conversations in the Nor-Shipping wildlife park, is the need for clarity.  We talk of shipping, maritime, industry, market and commoditisation without understanding the changing environment and impact.  Why is it the dry cargo market, but not the shipping industry? The world outside our cocoon sees these things more simply.  The disruptors see the business model flaws and that’s what they will attack.

Maritime is obviously the transport operations on water.  The last bastion of the transport owner and trader often being the same person.  Shipping is the logistics, the carriage of goods, by whatever transport, and the area that is changing faster than the transport mode, especially maritime operations.  Historically there was a blend – asset owner, shipper and trader was one and the same.  Whether the owner, Master, or East India Company they owned the asset and traded spices, slaves and bulk cargoes.  Some of this hasn’t changed much but it is not going to work in the technological new revolution, because shippers/cargo owners are not going to use antiquated models for business, and demand efficient and effective delivery of their goods.

Change is coming because maritime operations need to adapt to the growing demands for environmental management.  Change is also coming because our next generation will not operate in the dodo business model.  Change is coming because the customer, the cargo owner wants safe effective efficient delivery models, and todays maritime cannot do this.  Technology will allow this to happen, communications will enable this to happen.  So the shipper not the transport will decide the fate, the disruptor not the innovator will decide the date, and, the business model not the regulator will be the reason it will be what we create.

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