How does the shipping and wider maritime industry need to evolve in order to keep pace with a fast-moving landscape? It must begin with a change of mindset, writes Lena Göthberg.
The maritime industry is slow to embrace change, and not just in the digital sense. We’re an old industry, with little interest in the new. Our sector is steeped in tradition, governed by fixed mindsets with the over-arching thought: “If what we’ve done in the past has worked, why mess with a winning formula?” Now faced with the reality of a broken system and the realisation that something no longer works, we’re being forced to re-analyse our thinking and answer the big question as all others have asked several times before… “What needs to change?”
What Needs to Change?
Rather than wiping our hands of the issue and passing it onto a team that sounds like it vaguely deals with digital, what is needed now, is a collective change of mindset – one that urges and spurs everyone, both inside and outside shipping, to open up to new possibilities and ideas, encouraging an open conversation around change.
It still fascinates me to see that whilst shipping as an industry is often on the cutting edge when it comes to the vessel itself, it still continues to lag far behind other industries when it comes to the ‘basics’.
In my opinion, it is time for senior management to embrace the fact that every shipping company now needs a digital strategy and that we, the first movers, can assist this by speaking about digital in terms which they understand, explaining that there is a competitive advantage over those that are not as progressive. Companies will need to form an empowered digital team, capable of thinking strategically, and be prepared to adopt new challenges and innovations, committing to an ongoing program of education to improve their understanding of the digital world.
Giving the Shipping Industry a Voice
We have a tendency of speaking to each other about shipping and no one else, but we already know all about it. Who from outside the industry subscribes to a maritime newsletter? How many maritime journalists write about our industry in a way that the public can digest? How many maritime blog sites do you see that engage younger generations? We need to get the message out there that this is an interesting industry to work in, explain just how much we contribute to society, and prove that we are so much more than how we are portrayed in the media.
Shipping was made for storytelling after all, considering its unique nature which is rare in this day and age, but we’ve never had a voice that reaches beyond ourselves. We need to start thinking about where people now consume their news and be prepared to focus our attention there. I have put the Shipping Podcast on channels that are largely unchartered waters for the maritime including iTunes and mobile apps where you can find most others today. After a year of podcasting, I rarely speak to anyone within the industry about shipping anymore, but instead I get so much feedback, questions and new ideas from my wider audience. This shows that there is willingness from the public to learn about maritime, and to connect with us as a whole.
We’re dependent on world trade, so when the underlying drivers for trade, consumption and energy start changing, we simply must follow suit. When you look at industries that have already embraced digital change, it’s easy to see the difference between how they used to do things, and how efficient they have now become. We need to be able to respond to the demands of our customers who are becoming increasingly digital-minded.
Apart from the data and complex technology that helps to improve efficiency, it’s the collaboration that digital platforms facilitate and encourage that makes the real difference.
In 10 years’ time, the first movers will most likely have perfected the trends now taking shape, and some new ones will be taking their place. Of course it’s not easy to be a first movers; the average ship-owner has a fleet of 5-10 ships and if those were delivered before or during the recession, there is only so much you can do to stay afloat. What you can do however is open up, share your knowledge, and collaborate. This is the new mind-set that is already making waves, and we will see the result of this paradigm in the coming years… Watch this space.
Like what you’ve read? Don’s miss the first event of its kind, Shipping2030 Asia in Singapore, 29 November – 1 December, as we answer the big questions on shipping’s digital future.
Lena Göthberg is the Host and Producer of the Shipping Podcast who has worked in the industry for over 25 years. Her goal is to give the shipping community a voice and take the maritime industry online, helping it to connect with the digital world that surrounds it. Connect with her on Twitter @lenagothberg!