CYPRUS: Shipping industry braces for sea change in technology and workforce

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The shipping world is bracing for a sea change, not just in maritime technology and business models, but also in building relationships between shipowners and seafarers and managing change.

This is what captains of industry heard in Limassol this week, as the 16th Maritime Cyprus Conference ended.

The conference, celebrating 30 years and co-hosted for the first time by the new Deputy Ministry of Shipping, had “Sea Change” as its main theme.

Topics relevant to the shipping industry, included shifts in established business models, regulatory challenges, environmental protection and the impact of technological transformation.

Three days of presentations and panel discussions focused on environment and decarbonisation, social governance, training and talent, gender balance, digital transformation and innovation, financing and credit risk, increasing order books for new vessels, speed reduction, the impact of trade wars and tariffs compromise.

In his opening remarks at the conference, President Nicos Anastasiades emphasised the shipping industry is an invaluable asset for the Cyprus economy, ensuring that national measures are continuously enhanced, thus providing a stable and friendly environment for shipping companies covering a large spectrum of activities and services.

Permanent Secretary of the Deputy Ministry of Shipping and conference chairman Costas Iacovou said new initiatives have already led to an increase in revenues from ship-management as well as to the gross tonnage of the Cyprus Ship Register.

“Of particular interest was the President’s announcement of a revised and more simplified pricing policy which includes the abolition of initial registration fees for ocean-going vessels,” Iacovou said.

“Views were presented on the importance of cooperation throughout the shipping industry, and the adoption of technology to increase productivity.

It was widely agreed that the emissions impact of shipping has put pressure to take actions and that regional regulations would not be effective, as shipping is a global activity and as such: It requires global measures.”

Iacovou also referred to Deputy Minister Natasa Pilides’ interview where “she highlighted the potential of blue growth, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and the prospects for digitalisation. Reference was also made to the efforts towards a safer, greener, smarter and more inclusive shipping industry.”

He also referred to discussions on emissions, speed reduction, decarbonisation and digitalisation, LNG, the importance of the human element and a platform for young people to discuss their vision for the maritime industry, blue growth goals, career prospects and concerns, and to determine potential solutions to challenging issues.

The Cyprus Shipping Chamber, co-host of the event, participated this year with a panel discussion on “Are there brighter days ahead for Shipping?” offering an expert view on the main commercial issues affecting international shipping, setting the scene for even brighter days ahead.

The discussion was moderated by Mark Williams, Managing Director of Shipping Strategy, with the panel comprising Sadan Kaptanoglu, Chairwoman of Kaptanoglu Group and BIMCO President, Mikael Skov, CEO of Hafnia PTE, Ben Nolan, Managing Director of Maritime & Energy Infrastructure Research, Stifel Financial Corp, Philippos Philis, President of Cyprus Shipping Chamber, and Thomas Rehder, Managing Partner of Carsten Rehder Schiffsmalker and Reederei GMBH & Co. KG.

The Chamber’s President highlighted the important factors that will further drive shipping to the new era of transformation, with key drivers being and digitalisation.

Finally, the conference also had a discussion about “Seafarer to e-farer” where the panel agreed that resilience is an essential quality for the future seafarer.

There was collective recognition that education and training must evolve to meet the changing needs of the industry.

And that compelling incentives and demonstrating career progression opportunities will be critical to attracting and retaining talent for the long-term.

To enable the transition from seafarer to e-farer, objective and rigorous research is required to identify training gaps.

The importance of cross-industry collaboration was also highlighted, with the need to increase the dialogue between industry and regulators.

As with previous conferences, a session was held for young shipping executives, titled “Register your voice”, with an interactive, capacity-building and problem-solving session organised in collaboration with Young Ship Cyprus for young shipping professionals.

The session took place for the seventh time, attracting over 200 attendees.

Young executives (under 40 years of age) were presented with challenging topics ahead of the event which they discussed in groups with industry mentors.

The session aimed to provide young people with a platform to discuss their vision for the maritime industry, blue growth goals, career prospects and concerns, and to determine potential solutions to challenging issues.

The groups discussed topics from “The top 5 motivators and demotivated in maritime careers” and “Is top management too distant? How to bridge the gap” to “How to change perceptions: Shipping is dirty and old vs aviation is modern and clean”.

The groups then provided short presentations, sharing their ideas on potential solutions for challenges in the industry including encouraging mentoring programmes, introducing company networking events to increase motivation and encourage collaboration.

It was noted that the younger generation needs to learn from the older generations and be open-minded as well as trying to develop and innovate within the industry.

The moderators of the discussion were Despina Panayiotou-Theodosiou, President of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) International and CEO at Tototheo Maritime, and Ilias Bissias, Director at Naftika Chronika magazine of Greece.