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 realization that something no longer works, we’re being forced to re-analyze 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 may vaguely deal 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 the shipping 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 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 a digital team, capable of strategic thinking, prepared to adopt new challenges and innovations, and committed to an ongoing program of education to improve their understanding of the digital world.
Giving the Shipping Industry a Voice. 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 that this is an interesting industry to work in, explain how much we contribute to society, and prove that we are much more than how we are portrayed in the media. Shipping has never had a voice that reaches beyond ourselves. We need to think about where people 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. After a year of podcasting, I rarely speak to anyone within the industry about shipping, but instead I get so much feedback, questions and new ideas from my wider audience. This shows willingness from the public to learn about maritime, and to connect with us. We’re dependent on world trade, so when the underlying drivers for trade, consumption and energy start changing, then shipping simply must follow suit. When industries embrace 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 respond to the demands of our customers who are becoming increasingly digital-minded. Apart from data and technology that improve efficiency, it’s the collaboration that digital platforms facilitate that makes the real difference.
In 10 years’ time, the first movers will have perfected today’s trend and new ones will take their place. It’s not easy to be the 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 little you can do to stay afloat. What you can do is open up, share your knowledge, and collaborate. This is the new mind-set that is making waves, and we will see the result of this paradigm in the coming years.
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. Go to Twitter @lenagothberg.