Transas Global Conference: Shipping Industry Must embrace the ‘perfect storm’

Shipping companies must be prepared to embrace the ‘perfect storm’ that will hit the industry over the next couple of years – Transas CEOFrank Coles told a packed room of over 400 delegates at its Transas Global Conference in Malta.

The two-day conference in March brought together high-level professionals from the maritime industry and beyond with an agenda that was designed to inspire change.

Mr Coles said: “We are faced with the perfect storm in the next few years.  Many will conclude it is the fault of President Trump, but in fact it is actually nothing to do with him.  If anything, he is going to enable the industry to think smarter because he is also bringing change.  The perfect storm is the one confronting the maritime industry.  It is one which will disrupt all elements of the shipping industry, is technology-driven and in some cases is also self-inflicted”

Mr Coles added communication suppliers could be at risk as automated ships are introduced.

He said: “As long as there are crew onboard, there will be a need for more communications for welfare purposes. But I think maritime communications suppliers could be particularly at risk in the same way as Kodak/Blackberry once were.  The levels of capacity coming online, along with the race to the bottom in pricing, is going to make communications yields very hard to achieve.  However this pans out, the maritime industry is going to be the winner.”

The conference, which was moderated by Craig Eason, Editorial Director of Fathom Maritime Intelligence, included lively debates and discussions from leading members of both the maritime and aviation industries.

Captain Harry Nelson, Operational Advisor to Safety at Airbus, spoke on what lessons the maritime industry could learn from aviation, placing an emphasis on giving the right amount of time to training and allowing crews to digest what they have learned.

Capt Nelson told the packed audience: “We have spent a lot of our training time checking people and I would counsel you not to go too far in that direction. I’m not saying don’t check at all, but make sure the teaching is happening first. We have fallen into the trap of spending too much time on training and then checking. There is no time given for downtime or discussion.”

David Rowan, Editor-At-Large of technology publication WIRED, offered the audience a humorous overview of a number of successful wacky start-up businesses, and warned the shipping industry to not dismiss any idea regardless of how unbelievable it is.

Mr Rowan cited the example of a former Google Product Manager who left Google for his own start-up company. After eight months the company had not made any revenue nor did it have any customers, but it was bought out for a huge sum of money.

He explained: “After eight months the company was bought for $680million by a company called Uber. Why would Uber buy an eight-month-old, no-revenue, no-customer business? Because the company was developing autonomous trucks, which is a pretty big potential market, and obviously there’s a race to control these big autonomous networks.”

He added: “Autonomous travel is coming more quickly than we think, partly because the insurance services are pushing for it. The World Health Organization thinks 1.2million people die on our roads from human error. Health services are going to mandate autonomous regulation sooner than we think.”

On the subject of transport, Mr Rowan also spoke about a far-fetched idea that would see a new transportation method transporting people and cargo in vacuum tubes over long distances.

He explained: “It was a bit science fiction until they start making partnerships and talking about how they’re going to not just use land, but sea as well. These people could potentially be your new competitors. They’ve done deals with people like DP World, in fact DP World is very excited. So there’s people with big bank accounts that are buying into these crazy science fiction ideas and turning them into more competition for you.”

Remembering how critics slammed the likes of Skype, Netflix and the iPhone saying they would never catch on, he concluded by saying: “I would warn you not to dismiss these changes.”