Shipping needs a new breed of talent to match new world order, says Sohmen-Pao (source: Tradewinds)

Geopolitical and economic changes mean companies will need to broaden their talent base to thrive

The shipping industry is going to require more specialist expertise to address the changing business environment brought on by current geopolitical and economic issues, Singapore’s top shipowner has said.

“I think the core skills to run a shipping company are going to remain,” said Andreas Sohmen-Pao, speaking at Singapore Maritime Week. “It’s not going to be drastically different 10 years from now.”

“But obviously if we say we want to do digitialisation, and we want to do decarbonisation then we are going to need more technical people, more technological people.”

However, the Oxford- and Harvard-educated chairman of BW Group said that while he thinks that this is true, the shipping industry should be careful about running down the road of saying “let’s just create lots of digital experts, let’s create lots of technical experts”.

Sohmen-Pao said the shipping industry is facing the prospect of more expensive energy, minerals and metals and money, while free trade is becoming “not as easy as it used to be”.

“In a fractured world we are going to need more supply chain experts and we are going to need more lawyers to navigate fragmentation of rules and sanctions,” he said.

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“In a world of stagflation, we are going to need more commercial people who can manage the revenue side and finance people who can manage the interest rate and risk side.

“In a world of rolling pandemics and mental pressures and changing work environment we are going to need great human resources people,” he added.

Sohmen-Pao said the situation is constantly shifting and that talent must be “fluid, adaptable, amorphous” and not just “lets run in this one direction”.

On how to motivate people to come into shipping, which he describes as a “fantastic industry”, he highlighted three areas — purpose, autonomy and mastery.

Sohmen-Pao said employees need a sense of purpose, “why are they doing this”.

“You need a sense of autonomy and by the way we have had a taste of autonomy in the last two years, and we are not going back,” he said referring to the impact Covid-19 has had on everyday work patterns.

“Finally, you need mastery, which is where people need to sense personal growth, that they are learning and that they are being challenged.”

“And that will want to make people stay,” he said.