Greek shipping scrutinizes its future in the most fashionable isle
Passion, Perseverance and Patience are the keys of the anticipated recovery, it was said at the 1st Mare Forum held in Mykonos with challenging debates, discussions and brainstorming about the future of shipping from now to 2030
The 1st Mare Forum Mykonos of what will now become a regular annual event was organized as a high-profile gathering of top executives of Greek and international shipping and included a wide range of themes with challenging debates, discussions and brainstorming about the future from now to 2030 of shipping. The Committee was formed by George Gourdomichalis, Managing Director, Phoenix Shipping & Trading S.A.; Jannis Kostoulas, President, Mare Forum; Apostolos Poulovassilis, Chief Executive Officer, Aegean Shipping Management S.A.; George Tsavliris, Principal, Tsavliris Group; Philip Embiricos, Past President, BIMCO.
Conference Chairman George Gourdomichalis during his opening session gave the audience an update of key marine industry issues as well as the opportunities and risks for the development of the global and hellenic maritime industry during the "Recovery Anticipation" phase. The international regulatory timeline and technological developments at IMO, EU, USCG etc. could be opportunities as well as risks for Shipping Companies as part of a focused sustainability program.
Key Conclusions from the opening session were several: shipping is the most efficient mode of transport both in cost and in environmentally friendly terms; Greek shipping remains at the top of the industry in size, safety, financial robustness and new technology; regulators need to regulate with the input and participation if the industry and in a globally holistic and realistic manner; capital for shipping may change in source and mode but remains available for those who are committed and serious players regardless of size; overcapacity remains an issue but demand needs to be addressed; world GDP is important but world trade is the Trump card for our industry; 3 P's are the answer: Passion, Perseverance and Patience.
Alternative fuels will be embraced quicker by niche ship-types rather than mainstream shipping, however the game changer for the whole industry in the medium-long term will be the global societal push for low carbon shipping.
Historical trends have show that early-adopters of novel technologies usually incur higher costs and ROI is lesser, this causes most companies to be cautious and embrace a "wait-and-see" attitude when it comes to implementation of new technology.
Shipping is traditionally an extremely conservative industry, however the focus will inevitably shift as more "disruptive" forces start to enter the sector.
Digitalization of other sectors e.g. Uber, Airbnb should be examples to follow in one's search for efficiencies and economies of scale. One only needs to think about containerization, which was one of the most fundamental changes that the industry has ever seen. The exploitation of digital technology by our industry could be the next such significant step.
In the past Regulation has preceded technological change (see BWT, SOx/NOx etc), in the future it should be the other way around with technology and innovation shaping regulations.
Greek shipowners have followed innovative paths historically and they need to do the same now by embracing new technologies in a practical, business-sense manner and create a wider industry backing of new ideas. A more all-round knowledge and understanding of the maritime industry is vital.
Key Industry challenge though is to address the people skills gap as vessel technology advances and the regulatory pressures increase. You need to have the people with the right mix of skills both on board and ashore.
As far as environmental regulations and the consequential troubled relations between shipowners and regulators are concerned, the perception of finding solutions is overwhelmed by the fact that unsolved problems (not finding solutions) create / is a trillion dollar industry!
Improved synergies and a common understanding between the shipping cluster and the shipowning /shipmanagement community are vital in order to ensure that future regulations are more practical and applicable on a global basis.
Technical (capital intensive) involvement for Water Ballast systems, reduction of sulfur, CO2 and other similar requirements, is a massive business. The recent order by Maersk of 22,000 TEUs is an example: dual fueling on ships would allow them to use LNG, on the other hand MSC chooses scrubbers over LNG to power their new containerships.
The Cyber Risks has been underestimated, as the recent collision of American Navy ships showed; there are also allegations that vessels’ systems had been hacked by Chinese & North Koreans.
The relationship between Greek Shipping Community and the Greek State was also discussed during the final session and the well-documented UGS position that there should be a “common goal of maintaining and further strengthening of the ties of Greek shipping with its homeland” was fully endorsed by all delegates. A vital ingredient to ensure this is the development of an innovative and entrepreneurial strategy by all elements of the Greek Cluster.
Most commodity trading companies are clustered in Switzerland where they benefit from highly beneficial tax regime; however the cost of operation in Switzerland is high. Maritime hubs like Singapore are actively pursuing trading and shipping entities to move there and introduced proactive legislation to even improve trading conditions.
If Greece could integrate into Law 89 the commodity trading companies and facilitate the banking transactions for that sector, Greece by its location, its Western culture and its relatively low costs, it could attract the missing link.
This year’s inaugural Mare Forum Mykonos on the last session of, took several key issues that the industry is wrestling with in terms of an Integration of all Maritime Clusters – LNG as a marine fuel (as well as other alternative fuels such as methanol), more autonomous ships, the bottleneck on supply of competent seafarers, the disruptive forces potentially affecting the Shipping Industry going forwards, competitiveness of Greek Flag, sustainability of the Greek Seafarer and the development of the Vision of the Hellenic Maritime Cluster - as themes to take forward throughout the year via the at the Mare Forum ongoing goals and then analyse further at the 2018 Mare Forum Mykonos.