For years when I have addressed “JQ Public”, I have referenced shipping as the “second oldest industry in the world, but first global business”. As an industry, we have progressed through the millennia from local, to regional, to hemispheric and global as the technology of waterborne transportation has evolved.
This progression has led to unique characteristics about our industry—slow to evolve and change and siloed (unifying a global structure that historically has operated individualistically is a challenge which is only now being overcome). On the flip side, we have been accustomed to operating internationally as the engine of global trade, so the notion of “globalization” is not new to us but has been integrated into our DNA for centuries and is now facilitated by the advances in communications and technologies.
The importance of shipping was clearly demonstrated during this current pandemic as the flow of goods (including food and medical supplies) and energy was uninterrupted so global society could continue to function. What makes our position precarious, though, is when shipping is “weaponized” as a tool of geopolitics.
We have seen sanctions placed on shipping companies that are moving energy and goods from Country A to Country B, reflecting shipping’s value as a tool of geopolitics. Yet, when our mariners are constrained from normal crew swaps during this pandemic, shipping’s voice isn’t being heard to relieve their suffering. Thankfully, some maritime nations are now taking action.
Next on the horizon is the area of geopolitical “threats” is the exchange of information as the freedoms of Hong Kong begin to diminish. This will challenge the increase in secure digitalization and the globalized platform in which we operate. We are entering a new phase…
Carleen Lyden Walker
Chief Evolution Officer