Despite the constraints presented by the pandemic, The Maritime Standard recently held a highly successful fifth annual Tanker Conference, as a hybrid event, with some speakers and attendees taking part in person in Dubai following strict UAE governmental guidelines, and others joining online. The conference, which took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Tuesday 24th November, was different to past events, but there was no drop in the high quality of speakers and the excellence of their presentations for which the event is world renowned.
The Maritime Standard was warmly praised by many participants for its ingenuity and tenacity in holding the conference at a time when many such events have had to be cancelled or postponed. Keynote speaker, H.E. Eng Ahmed Mohammed Shareef Ali Al Khoori, Director General, FTA-Land & Maritime, said, “I must applaud The Maritime Standard for their hard work and innovation in finding a way to bring this sector together despite the Covid-19 pandemic. We will all have to get used to hybrid ways of working and this conference shows what is possible.”
The theme of this year’s Conference was, ‘The 2020s:An Opportunity to Capitalise on a Decade of Innovation and Recovery’, reflecting the underlying optimism within the tanker industry that, despite the setbacks of the past year, this decade is still one the industry can look forward to with some confidence. Conference editor, Clive Woodbridge, said, “While the pandemic has changed everyone’s perceptions, and the tanker market is shrouded in uncertainty, there is still a strong belief that there are real opportunities in the tanker shipping business for growth and development if players can be agile and flexible enough in adapting. That was a common theme of many presentations, along with the universal agreement that credit must go to seafarers for their contribution. The need to find long term solutions to crew change issues was raised a number of times.”
Other keynote addresses were given by Capt. Abdulkareem Al Masabi, CEO of ADNOC Logistics & Services and Shehab Al Rahma, Manager- Oil Terminals, DP World and these set the scene by giving perspectives from different industry sectors. The opening session then assessed the longer term picture for the tanker trades in the ‘new normal’. The audience heard from several experienced and influential business leaders including Ali Shehab, CEO, Kuwait Oil Tanker Company; Mrs HK Joshi, Chairperson and Managing Director of the Shipping Corporation of India; Khamis Juma Buamim, Chairman, KBI-UAE; Khalil Alhammad, Director, Fleet Management, Bahri Ship Management; Ibrahim Al Nadhairi, Acting CEO, Oman Shipping Company and Oman Drydock; Petros Doukas, Mayor of Sparta and former Deputy Minister of Finance of Greece; Jesper Kjaedegaard, Senior Advisor and Board Member, Marcura Group; and Chris Peters, CEO, Emirates Ship Investment Company.
A broad range of issues were covered in this session, including the fact that human issues were becoming more pressing with tanker crews and shore staff operating beyond their limits; the impending commercial pressures caused by tanker supply exceeding demand; the opportunities created by downstream petrochemical investments; and the challenges of the three ‘Ds” – Decarbonisation, Digitalisation and Debt. The possible need for industry consolidation to meet future challenges was also raised.
Other speakers who made a strong impact in the second session, discussing how to best create support structures and services to support long term market growth and development, included Capt. Mohamed Al Ali, Senior Vice President, Ship Management, ADNOC L&S; Fazel Fazelbhoy, CEO Synoff Synergy Offshore; Hans-Christian Mordhorst, Chief Operating Officer, Marcura Group, and Andrew Baird, Partner, WFW. The session was ably chaired by Jesper Kjaedegaard. Panellists discussed the pathway to smart ship management; the contribution of OSVs to the tanker supply chain; ship recycling; digital solutions in the tanker industry and the specific challenges relating to handling damaged vessels in a pandemic.
The tanker industry has a need to embrace and accommodate a host of technical, legal and regulatory challenges and the third session proved as transfixing as the two that went before, by showcasing the diverse skill sets needed post-pandemic. Expertly moderated by Vanessa Welch, from EMAC, speakers in this session included Julian Panter, Vice President Business Development, International Maritime Industries; Nijoe Joseph, Partner, Stephenson Harwood; Pawan Sahni, Business Development Director, Middle East & Africa, DNV GL; Rashid Isa Rishi Al Heddi, Group Managing Director, Seamaster Maritime; Roger Harfouch, Regional Director, Marlink Communications and Capt. Zarir Irani, Managing Director, Constellation Marine Services. This was a wide ranging session, with speakers discussing digitalisation and environmental regulatory challenges; shipyard investment strategies; green ship financing; the acceleration of digital classification as a result of the pandemic; alternative fuels; and claims management issues.
Reflecting on the ground-breaking hybrid conference, Clive Woodbridge added, “The tanker shipping business is crucial to the region and its fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the regional economies they serve. That is why it was so important that we held the TMS Tanker Conference in 2020, despite all the challenges, to give leading players in different sectors the chance to exchange ideas and discuss solutions to the key issues ahead. While this conference was structured in a novel way, the clear consensus was that it was equally valuable and thought-provoking to the previous in-person only TMS Tanker events.”