The Maritime Standard assembled a multinational panel of business leaders, from the UK, UAE, India, and Sri Lanka, to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the critical ship services and offshore support sector. This was the ninth Webinar in the TMS series looking at the impact of the crisis on the maritime community and once again it attracted a global audience in excess of 800 attendees.
There was a strong consensus among the panellists that ship suppliers were fulfilling an essential role that was not fully appreciated by the man in the street; that they had responded well to the challenges of the pandemic; and that the support sector overall had a bright future based on the continued importance of shipping to world trade. As Clive Woodbridge, Webinar moderator, concluded, “Adaptability and agility were key themes addressed by a number of speakers, along with the fact that the human element has shown itself to be a core strength. The need for cooperation between stakeholders was also stressed, as was the importance of embracing new technology.”
The panelists discussed the logistical and technical challenges faced by the industry, but there was agreement that they had to be dealt with head on. As Dr Abdul Rahim, Managing Director, Middle East and South East Asia, ClassNK, observed, “A new normal is emerging and we have to adapt. The increased use of technology in the industry, for remote surveys for instance, is certainly one of the positives.”
Ananda Senanayake, Managing Director, Lanka Shipping and Logistics also highlighted the accelerated use of digital technology, particularly within Sri Lanka, where it has been encouraged by the government. “We need to embrace change,” he added. “As this is all about the survival of the fittest.”
One of the Middle East region’s leading suppliers, Saifee Ship Spare Parts and Ship Chandlers was represented by Director, Idris Shahpurwalla. He pointed out that the pragmatic approach taken by the UAE government was reflected in the fact that ship suppliers were quickly designated as an essential service. He also paid tribute to people working within the business. He said, “We have come to realise the importance of the human element and if that is successfully managed there is no limit to what we can achieve.”
Lazaros Sarris, CEO of Dubai-based Central Shipmanagement similarly stressed how the crisis had highlighted the importance of people within the sector. “We have stepped up communications between shore and ship and this has helped minimise the impact the pandemic has had on crews. It is an important lesson we have learned and is something we will continue to focus on in future,” he said.
The benefits of having an extensive ship agency network was underlined by Sushil Mulchandani, CEO, J M Baxi & Co. Suggesting that ships agency was becoming a ‘big boys club’. He said, “If you have access to up to date information about what is happening in many different ports you can perform better and overcome tough challenges, with regards crew changes for example. By being present in many ports we have been able to pull off a lot of things that others could not.”
Sean Moloney, Secretary of the International Ship Suppliers and Services Association (ISSA), pointed out that the organisation continues to press the IMO to designate ship suppliers as an essential service, having written to the Secretary General earlier this year. He concluded, “There are a number of issues that ship suppliers still face, including gaining access to ships in some ports and receiving payment in a timely manner. We are pressing for IMO action, and also greater industry cooperation, as solutions to some of the challenges have to be found as an industry, not just on a sector by sector basis.”
Preparations are now being made for the 10th TMS Webinar in the series. This will take place on October 7th and will focus on the implications of the pandemic for container terminal operations and development. For more details go to: https://www.themaritimestandard.com/tms-webinar/