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What a time to be a shipowner!!! I don’t remember when all the proverbial balls were in the air—at the same time! Yes, it is normally an adrenaline-fueled life full of challenges galore! But to tick all the boxes at the same time could possibly result in overloading the system!
Top of mind for me recently is defense. We see tensions building in the Middle East, which is already a tinderbox, with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict added to the seizure by the US Navy of an arms cache in an unflagged dhow, plus aggressive actions by Iranian assets. While I don’t believe we are at the long-predicted Armageddon, it is certainly a time of great uncertainty.
And then there are incursions in the South China Sea and Taiwan…
Sometimes events also provide opportunity. In the United States, we are still reeling from the cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline. Interestingly, we have often heard about the vulnerability of our infrastructure as an example of why the maritime industry needs to harden up its protection from cyber assaults. Now we are seeing it play out—with the possible benefit of greater deployment for tankers. When you have lemons, make lemonade!
Another challenge/opportunity is the proliferation of new fuels, technologies, and programs to better manage every aspect of shipping operations! But how is a shipowner to discern which is best for their fleet? Do they go with LNG, bio-fuels or hydrogen? How about satcomms? Bridge management? Which is the most reliable bunker supplier?? We have transited from feast to famine!
And at the uppermost of all our minds is crew welfare, with the additional complications for crew change posed by the surge of COVID in India and related fallout. Managing crew morale, health and restrictions is a major source of sleeplessness today.
Shipping will continue to do what it does best—being the engine of global trade. Even when ALL the balls are in the air!