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Shipping Industry concerned about impact of trade protectionism and cyber threats, but mostly optimistic about growth: NAVIS

The global maritime industry is cautiously optimistic about the global business environment for world trade, but also concerned about the potential impact of trade tensions, cyber security, fuel costs and other headwinds to industry recovery, according to a new benchmark survey and study developed by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network in partnership with Navis.

Some 82 percent of survey participants anticipate either improved profitability over the next 12 months or continued stabilization and reduced losses, according to the Navis Business Bellwether report. Growth is expected to come from all regions of the world, with particularly robust activity in Asia and the Middle East/Africa.

The Navis Business Bellwether report is intended to be an ongoing benchmark survey of the shipping industry to monitor sentiment and priorities across a variety of economic, business and operational issues. The inaugural survey was conducted in September and October of 2018 and includes responses from more than 175 industry professionals and executives. The report also includes commentary from select industry leaders.

“A return to industry growth and improvements in shipping supply and demand have resulted in increased optimism among maritime industry executives and professionals,” said Dave Murray, head of thought leadership for the BPI Network. “At same time, the industry appears to be very focused on raising operational performance and profitability through improvements in process quality and efficiency and increased investments in technology.”

While just 12 percent of respondents are “very optimistic” about the global business environment, another 46 percent express cautious optimism. Some 41 percent say they are either somewhat or very concerned.

Underscoring this tempered optimism, Brian Hibbert, CIO of International Container Terminal Services, said, “I would not expect a significant change in profitability in the next 12 months. I expect more activity when it comes to mergers and acquisitions in the terminal operating space as companies try to optimize their portfolios to achieve a profitable position,” Hibbert said.

Topping the list of industry concerns is the rise in trade protectionism and new tariffs. One third of all survey respondents said they were “extremely concerned” about trade tensions, with another 36 percent saying they were concerned. Cyber security was also high on the list, with 29 percent indicating extreme concern and another 37 percent expressing concern.

Only 11 percent of respondents were extremely concerned about an economic slowdown. However, when assessing potential risks to the industry, economic growth ranked high and just below trade protectionism.

Other top risks include rising fuel costs, a lack of process efficiency, continued industry consolidation, and labor disruption.

Technology investments will increase over the next 12 months, according to the survey. Some 90 percent of respondents said their organizations would raise technology spending, including 56 percent who said the increase would be 6 percent or greater. Adoption of new technologies was also cited as one of the top three priorities of companies for improving performance, behind only improving process efficiency and quality and bettering customer service and satisfaction.

The top areas for increased technology spending, in descending order, include automation, business intelligence, planning and management systems, big data analytics, and SaaS applications and cloud services. Much discussed technologies like Blockchain and IoT sensors were significantly lower on the priority list.


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