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Maritime industry enters uncharted waters

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A combination of technology and political and economic events are creating new risks and opportunities for the global maritime sector, Marsh Ltd. said in a report released Wednesday.

“The Changing Tide of Risk: Expert Perspectives on the Marine Industry” examines several issues facing maritime companies. Among other things, the report considers how emerging technologies, such as blockchain, could potentially revolutionize cargo processing by reducing human error and improving efficiencies.

“The technology promises to revolutionize container logistics by connecting the supply chain in a way the industry has never seen before,” the report said, “eliminating costly time-consuming processes, and creating trust and partnership in an industry where such principles can, at times, be misunderstood by providing the ‘single version of the truth’ to all parties involved.” 

The report looks at potential risks associated with drone and autonomous technology, such as cyber piracy and the role of the global shipping industry in reducing emissions, building “greener” fleets and contributing to a lower-carbon future. 

A fully autonomous ship would lessen piracy risks in the sense that there would be no crew to take hostage, the report said, but the ships would still have cargo on board and would carry considerable value, making them attractive targets. Arguably, the report said, having a human crew on board offers some degree of protection, and that removing the crew could make the vessel a more attractive target, as there would be less protection for the cargo. 

In addition, the Marsh report, said the shipping industry is facing severe talent shortages, and the need to embrace gender diversity in the workforce has never been greater.

“Emerging trends in disruptive technology and human capital, together with changing market dynamics, are forcing the global maritime industry to re-examine some of the basic assumptions that have driven traditional risk conventions,” Marcus Baker, London-based chairman of Marsh Ltd.’s global marine practice, said in a statement. “Added to this, the overly optimistic ordering of new ships and increased capacity since the onset of the financial crisis means that the industry is now at a pivotal point in its evolution.”