Meeting the challenges of change

By Thomas Monteiro, Director – Marketing, Strategic Business Development, Key Accounts Mgt, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM)

The current global economic situation is a serious challenge for the shipping industry. Shipping, which contributes immensely to global merchandise transport, is adapting itself to face the challenge. Ship managers, representing a major part of the maritime cluster, have to face such challenges and this is a test of capability.

Whilst lowering operating costs may be the preferred option to meet the current challenge, the need for cost-effective management while maintaining an acceptable quality of service cannot be ignored. In addition to the need for safe operations, the benefits of unhindered commercial availability, operational capability without any loss of time or damage to cargo, and the benefits of long term asset preservation, may be easily blind-sided with the enthusiasm for cost reduction. A cost-effective performance can be achieved through professional ship management with a strong foundation in technical and commercial expertise, combined with an economic outlook. Third-party ship managers who have wide scope of skill, knowledge and experience, a well-trained team both ashore and afloat, a wide-ranging fleet, an expanded global network, the ability to leverage economies of scale, regional presence and capability of providing innovative solutions, can successfully meet such challenges.

Globally, the category of ship owners is changing with the changing face of economy. Sustainable growth in the shipping industry needs quality shipmanagement. Ship managers who have the capability to provide quality maritime solutions globally play a significant role in successfully supporting ship owners.

In this dynamic world, ship managers are required to look at innovative ideas to provide solutions for existing problems and prepare the onshore and afloat staff for future challenges. While the crew have their mandatory national maritime qualifications, the increasing demands of the industry warrant complementing such qualifications with further development of knowledge and skills. Ship managers who are able to identify and cater for the appropriate training needs can provide improved cost-effective shipmanagement. Quality ship managers recognise the importance of training and allocate substantial resources to facilitate training of their employees both afloat and ashore.

In this global village, with a vast pool of multinational crew, the flexibility to have appropriately qualified and well-trained crew to man the vessels is another advantage enjoyed by larger ship managers. This gives such ship managers the flexibility to match the crew nationality with the vessel, based on the availability of suitably qualified and trained crew, vessel’s trade, voyage pattern, and ship owner’s preference.

The economic advancement in many developed countries has adversely affected the availability of professionals to support the ship management task. These changing social values have made merchant shipping a less attractive option, thus affecting the availability of talent to support the ship management industry. The larger ship managers, who focus on providing cost-effective quality maritime solutions, can expend the resources to identify a fit-for-purpose pool of seafarers and develop a competent talent pool.

Through effective management and leveraging economies of scale, larger ship managers are able to secure competitive prices from shipping suppliers and other service providers thus effectively reducing the costs of ship management. This is a welcome benefit to the ship-owners, particularly in these economically pressing times.

The technological advances expected to meet the demand for energy efficiency and a greener environment encourages ship managers to take on the task of innovation. Large shipmanagement organisations, with their extensive collective experience and vast external network, can contribute to such an endeavour.

Ship managers with an holistic approach to maritime solutions, with the emphasis on cost effective performance and innovation, have set a trend in the industry. Surely this is a positive trend in a mature industry which is trying to match the changes in the global outlook.

In today’s world, where change is the only constant, a progressive approach is the key to success. The challenge for a quality maritime solutions provider to face such progressive trends is enormous if the organisation wishes to retain its reputation. Such challenges can be successfully met by an organization with professionalism, dedication, enthusiasm, and innovative responsiveness.