‘Signals Of Change’ That Could Reshape Shipping’s Future

SSI Identifies ‘Signals Of Change’ That Could Reshape Shipping’s Future

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), a pioneering coalition of companies from across the global shipping industry focused on uniting commercial growth with sustainable behaviours, has released a new report, ‘Signals of Change’, that explores the potential impact of emerging technology, policy and behaviours on the future of sustainable shipping.

The report was developed in partnership with Forum for the Future through its Futures Centre digital platform, as part of an ongoing initiative to collectively track innovations and respond to signals of change in the shipping industry. Among the 15 developments highlighted in the report, three unifying themes emerged from the analysis, which could evolve to have a significant impact on shipping. These are:

  • managing the demands and dynamics of ocean governance
  • the changing requirements of shipping industry leaders, and
  • the re-shaping of supply chains due to manufacturing developments.

“Despite the immediate challenges facing shipping, to ensure that the industry is robust, dynamic and profitable in the future, it is important to step back and evaluate how the global innovations that are either outside of, or adjacent to shipping, could have an impact on the sector”, commented Alastair Fischbacher, Chief Executive, The Sustainable Shipping Initiative. “We live in a world of increasing dynamism and volatility, where drivers such as climate change, growing demand for limited resources and increasing hyper-connectivity will have major effects on business. The industry will be better placed to adapt and seize opportunities if it identifies and understands these signs early on.”

The report highlights the wide-reaching impact of human activity in the marine ecosystem, particularly within the current context of emerging issues such as vessel quieting and underwater noise regulation as well as growing scrutiny of geoengineering as ocean acidification rates rise to unprecedented levels. Seabed mining could also become a major game-changer: despite polarised views on its feasibility as a sustainable source of natural resources, the The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has granted 19 exploration licences to date, and the first commercial deep-sea mining project, by Nautilus Minerals in Papua New Guinea, is expected to start operations within the next five years. Such initiatives are likely to drive further debate around the ownership rights and regulatory developments of the oceans.

As with all sectors, shipping will have to manage the changing demands on its leaders both at sea and onshore. In addition to the pressures of the digital era in terms of demonstrating transparency and accountability for both company and personal actions, changes in how shareholder value are measured, such as divestment campaigns around fossil fuels, could require executives to live up to different performance expectations. If emerging factors, including remote-controlled vessels, 4D printing and the greater automation of repetitive operations in ship-yards, are scaled, they could have a dramatic impact on the roles of those working within the industry.

How the nature of manufacturing evolves over the next decade and beyond will have a dramatic impact on the production and transportation of cargo. For example, the mainstream adoption of additive manufacturing and the development of new materials such as nanomaterials, will fundamentally challenge current manufacturing practices and locations. Combined with increased efforts to ‘close the loop’ on production through reverse logistics, supply chains will become increasingly complex, which the shipping industry will need to respond to.

The SSI and the Futures Centre will continue to monitor these and other macro trends to see how they develop and to highlight where solutions might be required. Contribution from the industry as well as the wider business community is also encouraged to collate a fully comprehensive perspective. Participants can submit their observations, and subscribe to receive regular updates from the contributions of their peers through the Futures Centre shipping topic hub.

Alastair Fischbacher concluded: “We will continue to monitor how these signals of change take shape within their different contexts as well looking into what other signs are on the horizon. As part of our work in this area we are also looking forward to sharing further insights with the Futures Centre in April on the social, economic and environmental challenges we are tackling as we progress towards our vision for a truly sustainable industry by 2040.