There are different attitudes that one can have towards the beginning of each new year.
Some struggle to leave the past, overanalysing the previous months. Yet their clock is the only one that stopped. Others treat this opportunity as a blank page and decide to become a whole new person. Each year. Over and over again. There are also the ones spending so much time preparing the yearly-to-do-list, that it ends up longer than their bucket list, and they wake up in December with the pen still in hand.
But although it seems amusing as you stand aside and watch, we all love these yearly recaps and reading New year’s tea leaves.
Various articles have already been published in the shipping world. If you want to understand 2017 from the economic/financial point of view, we strongly advise you to have a look at 3-part Xeneta publication: https://www.xeneta.com/blog/global-shipping-industry. If you need a summary of the important regulations and changes, you should see the Ship Insight article: https://shipinsight.com/crystal-ball-gazing-2018/.
When you google the topic, you have plenty of options, whether you want a brief summary of 2017 events or a long, yearly analysis of the market.
Yet when others are trying to be impartial and politically correct, instead of focusing on numbers, we will focus on emotions. We’d like to talk about the topics that have touched the shipping industry the most, inspired vibrant discussions and made us feel more human during 2017.
The obvious start would be all the technology madness.
No one would call automation breaking news nowadays, especially as it seems to be a natural and expected step after containerisation started in the late 50s. More than a half-century after that breakthrough, we should not be surprised that the industry is beginning to rely less on humans. The goal is to improve efficiency, reduce the number of mistakes and in general cover the demands of trade. Both port automation and autonomous ships will reduce the environmental impact of the industry and enable shipping to be safer for people, and the planet.
We have had more than enough time to get prepared and contribute to that evolution with our skills, experience and knowledge. Nevertheless, the industry suddenly woke up, realizing that some manual jobs might be in danger of being lost. The question is, can we spend our precious time and apply the amazing abilities of our brains for something greater? Surely technology is a way for us to take up this worthy course.
Apparently not. Instead of developing competencies and learning essential skills, people did what they always do – started finding excuses, most commonly, the problem of cybersecurity. ‘This technology will ruin the world. Nasty hackers will take over our terminals and play Tetris with our containers.’
For some reason, people missed that the problem of cybersecurity is not machines – but ironically – humans. Humans who lack essential knowledge and ignore the regulations, break the rules or are not careful enough to keep the information secured. Simply put, humans do not use technology correctly.
So, technology itself is not the problem here, it’s people who prefer to criticize and waste time looking for problems instead of solving them. To take another example, it’s easy to say that blockchain will affect confidential business models or reveal sensitive data.
Usually, innovation brings lots of uncertainty and challenges, and the natural response for people is to shy away. But guess what, you decide whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. Instead of analyzing the amount of liquid – act. You might change the world.
Don’t misunderstand. I would never say that you should not spend time thinking. The fact that we analyze the problems well before we solve them is the reason we succeed as logistics professionals. The trick is to understand when to think, and when to act. What is more important? Is the subject worth thinking about anyway? We need to ask the right questions to find the right solutions.
Albert Einstein said:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
That’s the key to problem-solving. Some people look for solutions before they really understand the problem. We have already found some solutions if it comes to GHG emissions, but neither do we act nor do we understand what this problem really means to the world. But no need to go into that here, it was discussed more than enough in 2017.
Speaking of discussions, how many publications have you seen this year about abandoned crews? We saw lots. On the very next page, we often found articles about how to attract the so-called millennials and young professionals to the industry. Well, I hope these youngsters don’t end up this way!
We could go on and on with these thoughts, but enough of being sardonic for today. We really wish the best for the shipping industry in 2018.
In the end, if the ship sinks, the crew goes down with it.
We enjoy the voyage and we don’t want it to end. Enough of the moaning, it’s a long journey. Instead of ineffective discussions and negative predictions, let’s use the time to welcome all the new solutions and look to improve them with a more positive attitude.