25/04/2018 – News / Maritime / Shipping / Singapore Maritime Week

Industry heavyweights weigh in on the future of shipping

With digitalisation bringing disruption to industries and transforming the way conventional businesses work, about 300 industry players including CEOs, CTOs and CFOs from the shipping, port and maritime sectors gathered to glean insights from a powerhouse panel of movers and shakers as they discussed how such technologies will likely shape the future of shipping.


The inaugural ‘Global Perspectives: The Future of Shipping’ forum – one of the key events at Singapore Maritime Week 2018 (21-29 April 2018) – featured a panel comprising maritime veteran Dr Martin Stopford, President of Clarkson Research; Mr Carl Schou, President and CEO of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which recently relocated its global headquarters to Singapore; Mr Lim Kell Jay, Country Head of Grab Singapore, the disrupter that has revolutionised the taxi industry; Mr Claas Durach, Regional Head of Ocean Freight, Crossborder of Lazada eLogistics;  and  Mr Tal Drory, Senior Manager (AI – Multimedia) at IBM Haifa Research Lab, specialising in artificial intelligence. 


The highly-interactive dialogue session was moderated by seasoned international award-winning journalist and broadcaster Mr Teymoor Nabili, who brought a fresh disruption to the traditional panel format. Using an app-based system ‘Pigeonhole Live’, the audience were asked a series of questions that then formed the basis for conversation amongst panellists.


The future of shipping 


In response to the first question, ‘Is digitalisation for real or just a hype?’, 81.4 per cent of the audience agreed that it was a very real and prevalent part of the world today, while 12.9 per cent reserved their judgement for a later time by voting that ‘it’s still early days to comment on this’.


Mr Lim remarked that he was surprised that 5.7% of those polled still thought of digitisation as hype, “because if that were true, Grab wouldn’t exist,” he pointed out. Mr Stopford acknowledged, “there has definitely been a silent revolution going on, with greening, digitisation and automation,” while Mr Drory expressed strong confidence that AI would transform all industries in the future.


When asked which consumer sector they felt offered the most learning points when it came to applying digitalisation to the maritime sector, 66.4 per cent of the audience chose the “retail, logistics and e-commerce” sector, while 20.4 per cent thought it was the “transport” sector, and the remaining 13.6 per cent believed it to be the “fintech and banking” sector.


Various other questions were brought up by the audience, including one on how to attract younger talent to the maritime industry. Mr Drory was optimistic that “with the industry becoming more computerised and digitised, the appeal to the younger generation would become higher". 


Finally, when asked what they considered to be the best strategy for coping with the opportunities of AI, blockchain and data analytics disruptions, 63.3 per cent opted to partner with a company in the field, 27.5 per cent thought to create or join an industry consortium, and 9.2 per cent chose to invest in or buy an AI or blockchain start-up.  


“It’s a matter of knowing what you want to achieve,” noted Mr Durach, in reference to how swiftly technological changes occur, and suggested that it is probably better to partner with a thought leader than to create one’s own consortium or start-up. In conclusion, Mr Stopford summed up the room’s sentiment when he remarked, “Isn’t it fantastic that we have all these opportunities to improve the business through technology?”


Certainly, the maritime sector has long been a more traditional sector that due to its supply chain complexities and multifaceted parts and players has always been a little slower to adopt technological change. Nonetheless, it seems clear that the promise of big data, blockchain and AI to boost efficiencies will prove increasingly attractive to all maritime businesses in the years ahead. 


Singapore Maritime Week, driven by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, runs from 21-29 April 2018. For more information and the full calendar of events, visit: www.smw.sg

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