The future of the maritime industry – if you’re not confused, you should be

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Cameron Mackey, the Chief Operating Officer of Eneti, grappled with the topic of the future of the maritime industries as guest speaker at the Connecticut Maritime Association (CMA) annual meeting.

Mackey, who also serves in a senior leadership role at Scorpio Tankers, has an extensive background including advanced college degrees and service as a Master Mariner on a fleet for a major oil company. Rather than discussing Eneti’s recent announcement of a possible connection with Transocean or prospects for MR tankers, his remarks took a very different tack from the lecture on the future of shipping entitled “If You’re Not Confused, You Should Be”.

As the title suggested, Mackey’s remarks were a wide-ranging dialogue over the allotted half-hour.

On the subject of ship financiers, he offered that lending to the maritime industry entailed “a lot of headaches but little reward” for traditional bankers. Turning to the issue of alternative lenders, he said “debt prices are rising” Chinese leasing structures, which Mackey describes as “pretty attractive right now” and hinted that this is likely to remain the case three years from now.

On the subject of banks engaging in social and environmental causes, he remarked, “I don’t think that’s sustainable.” In response to a question about the Poseidon Principles, he said: “You’ve been a great initiative… but it’s going to have an ‘expiry date’ – it needs to be revised… it doesn’t fit the industry. The banks will decide whether they want to participate.”

He added: “From the point of view of a tanker owner or a transhipment specialist, I don’t think these kinds of initiatives by the banks are going to persist… the industry will increasingly depend on alternative sources of financing.”

That conversation led to a question from an insightful but angered member of the audience about how younger workers – “the next generation” – might be attracted to the shipping industry if it doesn’t get involved in sustainability initiatives. “I think the next generation is looking for a job… …we’re in a pretty tight job market right now…the pendulum of work volatility…recessions aren’t always a bad thing.” The cyclical theme surfaced throughout the presentation.

Mackey turned his attention to two very hot topics – technology and regulation. On the subject of data, he said, “The solutions we see are based on limited or corrupted datasets,” after noting that data owners are often unwilling to share it and therefore don’t supply vendors of products, including this one with internal data processing plants steeped in AI, with truly robust problem-solving capabilities – due to a lack of scale. He pointed out that software vendors offering data-driven decision-making work with limited and therefore imperfect inputs.

Looking several years into the future, he indicated that large ship managers and commercial managers who are data-hungry and in consolidation mode would gain influence. On technology in the maritime space in general, he said, “It could contribute to profitability and safety… but the feedback you get from a lot of users is that they don’t know how to use it or they don’t know what the inherent biases are or what it is optimized for… We spend a lot of time thinking about what the ingrained biases are in the technology we use.”

Regarding regulatory issues, the view was that “in the absence of regulatory clarity, no one can make long-term investments”. As MEPC 80 draws ever closer to IMO, widespread opinion is in agreement – ​​now, just two months away, he rhetorically asked, “Who wants to invest if you don’t know what the rules will be?” He pointed to the lack of clarity on the part of the IMO and the complex web of regulatory efforts, saying, “Local states, sovereigns and communities like the EU … make their own rules”.

An observation made by Mackey in the regulatory debate that “complexity is a gentle force for consolidation” gives a hint as to where the shipping market might be headed. This view comes from actual frontline experience – you don’t have to look further than Scorpio Tankers, with a fleet of more than 100 ships, and Eneti, who have recently engaged in fusion activity, to see this.

Source: News Network

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