The global coronavirus pandemic has given us all a wake-up and a shake-up.
The only certainty yet to emerge is that businesses and the models upon which they are built can be pushed over a cliff with little or no warning.
That certainty must become the catalyst for shaping a new normal, in ways with which many businesses, especially in maritime, have only tinkered thus far.
The kind of planning that may have seemed risky or ambitious in maritime pre-pandemic now becomes an imperative.
OrbitMI believes businesses that act now to embrace the imperatives will be those that survive — and can thrive — when the next crisis occurs.
And occur it will.
It is not as if the maritime sector has not faced and overcome crises in the past, but the pandemic has uniquely and indiscriminately swept through all regions globally, most industries and has stubbornly resisted, if not yet beaten, science.
Fortunately for maritime, the industry’s momentum for adopting digitalisation transformation is well underway. During the pandemic, we have seen classification societies collaborate to beat operational disruptions, rising numbers of remote surveys and even sharing of some physical survey work.
The natural progression, ahead of the next unforeseen crisis, is for more trialling and piloting of innovative tools and practices. Covid-19 will pass, but who would be brave enough to say nothing worse could follow?
We can already forecast some of the likely elements of the new normal; more remote workers; fewer office spaces; less foreign business travel; fewer conferences.
Already, one practical downside to remote working has emerged; the combination of brokers, charterers and operators working from home has slowed the information flow, resulting in more work and time being needed to make the right decisions.
The human element will continue to be critical to doing business, so use forecasting of the new normal to pivot and adapt your people accordingly. Equip them with the tools and training they will need and build on the very strengths of your people’s skills, experience, flexibility and client relationships that have helped your business – and those of clients – to come through the pandemic.
Supplement your people strengths with data and intelligence, both human and artificial.
“Yesterday’s thinking is holding back maritime from embracing the mindset needed today. The key mental activity required in this thinking shift, is imagination” said Ali I Riaz, chairman and chief executive of OrbitMI.
“Leveraging technology is a key part of any roadmap, but it will not be achieved without the mindset shift required. Doing this adaptive work, thinking differently, leaders need to open up to change, share ideas, question core assumptions and take in fresh perspectives.
“This can include empowering staff at all levels of the organisation to bring new ideas and ways of working. The important first step is the self-realisation that thinking differently, and reimagining, is needed,” said Mr Riaz.
None of the new thinking can deviate from the industry’s long-term aims, in line with International Maritime Organization policy, aspirations and goals. Some players have already made commitments during the pandemic to reconcile with the IMO’s 2050 decarbonisation deadline.
Norwegian shipowners pledged in late May to have a carbon neutral fleet by 2050 and not to order vessels without zero-emission technology from 2030 onwards, and at least one major global trading house (Cargill) has said the pandemic will accelerate the drive to decarbonisation.