SOURCE: LLOYD’S LIST
• Wednesday 22 March 2017, 01:06
• by Max Tingyao Lin
Seafarers, middlemen and even analysts could be among the casualties
MARITIME transport will still be needed in the future. But many maritime jobs might not.
In a CMA session discussing shipping’s future, some panelists pointed out fewer jobs would be required due to the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, even as the attractiveness of seaborne trade will remain due to lower costs and less adverse impact on the environment. The latest industrial revolution often refers to several types of innovations, including automation, manufacturing means merging digital and physical spaces, such as 3D printers, and advance information technology to save energy and labour costs. This development comes after the first revolution in mechanisation, water and steam power in 1760-1820, the second in mass production, assembly and electricity in 1870-1947, and the third in information technology and automation in 1950-1992.
The overarching theme during the fourth revolution would be persistently weak shipping demand growth ahead, according to Danish Ship Finance.
Buoyant renewable energy development could reduce requirements for wet and dry bulk vessels, while increases in domestic production via innovations would hurt containership demand.
“The industry expects seaborne trade volume to grow by an annual average of 2%-4% but we anticipate that growth could slow to only 1% between 2016 and 2030,” said Danish Ship Finance head of research Christopher Rex.
With its drive to increase efficiency and productivity, “the [new revolution’s] consequence is likely to be fewer jobs and less resource demand per dollar growth”.
Job losses across the board
According to DNV GL, autonomous ships that can make their own operational and voyage decisions could emerge in 2035, which would reduce the needs for seafarers even though they would not be completely unmanned.
The professions of “middleman” like brokers and freight forwarders are also at risk, as cargo owners adopt more IT innovations to save costs and improve efficiency, Transas chief executive Frank Coles said.
“I saw the perfect storm swirling of uncertainty…The drive for efficiency from cargo owners will change shipping”.
“You may think I am crazy, but I need you to understand it is already here,” said Mr Coles, raising the recent Maersk-Alibaba partnership and the BHP Billiton online freight platform as examples.
Even Mr Rex, who was among the first to adopt the concept of “Fourth Industrial Revolution” in maritime transport, might not be immune from its impact as he could someday lose his job to robots good at data analysis, while overall financing requirements decline amid oversupplied shipping markets.
“We are still financing ships, but we are being much more selective than we used to be,” Mr Rex said.