Technology, geopolitical uncertainty and environmental regulations will force change throughout the shipping industry

LONDON, 12 September 2019 – Global law firm Reed Smith yesterday hosted a panel of shipping experts to discuss the issues having the biggest impact on the maritime industry.

As part of London International Shipping Week, representatives from a cross-section of the industry took part in a lively debate on international trade and the wider industry including technology, environmental issues, sanctions and geopolitical uncertainty.

The panel members who took part in the event at Reed Smith’s Broadgate Tower offices in Shoreditch comprised:

  • Nick Shaw, executive officer of International Group P&I and former global head of shipping at Reed Smith.
  • Martin Stopford, president of Clarkson Research Services Limited and director of MarEcon Ltd.
  • Admiral Sir George Zambellas GCB DSC DL, former First Sea Lord and apprentice and engineer by training, with transformation leadership expertise, especially in the delivery of breakthrough innovation performance.
  • Leigh Hansson, Global Regulatory Enforcement group partner and a leading lawyer in Reed Smith’s International Trade and National Security team.

Panel moderator and Reed Smith partner Sally-Ann Underhill introduced the first topic of discussion – technology. The panel’s consensus was that technology has the potential to significantly change the shipping industry but it is still some way from the ‘inflection point’ i.e new technology is not yet transforming the industry.

The collective view from the panel was that big data is likely to be a key driver of any change but shipping companies will need to collaborate in order to standardise and ensure the quality of the data. Without this collaboration the sector is at risk of disruption from new players that are far more advanced in their use of technology.

The ‘green agenda’ and environmental regulations were also key topics of the panel discussion. It was broadly agreed that the shipping industry is reasonably prepared for IMO 2020 but the true test will come when the new regulation comes into force and it is able to understand how various jurisdictions are going to approach enforcement.

The panel also addressed the changing geopolitical situation and its impact on the shipping industry. In particular the US-China trade war was said to be a force that might result in a reshaping of trade flows.

Underhill said: “The industry is facing a somewhat unprecedented time of change. Technology has the potential to revolutionise the industry, the current geopolitical landscape and rise of protectionism is redirecting trade flows and the green agenda are all forcing change. Shipping organisations need to be sure they are compliant with current and emerging legal frameworks as they look to address these challenges and opportunities.”

The current sanctions landscape was also discussed, with advice coming from Reed Smith partner Leigh Hansson that ship owners and managers need to be carrying out sufficient due diligence in order to not breach, in particular, the US sanctions regime.

Hansson said: “OFAC is putting a greater onus on the shipping community to know who they are doing business with. It needs to be aware of the warnings that OFAC is publishing but also keep abreast of information available in the public domain – it cannot simply rely on the information coming from the agency. Ignorance will not stand up against the strict enforcement approach taken by the US.”

Reed Smith’s Transportation Industry Group would like to thank Nick, Martin and George for joining the panel and sharing their views on the future of the shipping industry.

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