As this issue of Ship&Offshore goes to print, it has just been announced that this year’s Nor-Shipping will be postponed until January 2022. While this may not be a huge surprise, some optimists were still hoping that the industry would be able to meet again in Oslo this June. The organisers have argued that they did not want to take the risk of holding a “scaled down, socially distanced exhibition” but hope for a relieved situation at the beginning of next year.
It is not easy to stay positive if one wants to assess the coming months realistically. The availability of the vaccine is, of course, hopeful; nevertheless, it will take time (if ever) for life to return to the normal to which we are accustomed and for depressed sectors of many countries’ economies to recover.
Looking back, the maritime industry has had a rather mixed 2020 – depending on the sector. Decreasing order intake and delayed order processing in general have led to a mediocre year for many stakeholders. Probably the most obvious and serious impact was felt by the cruise industry, whose continuing success story was brought to an abrupt halt by Covid-19. This is particularly noticeable across the European shipbuilding landscape, which has become the undisputed market leader for cruise vessel construction in recent years.
However, the international merchant shipping industry has once again demonstrated impressively how important the work of the people employed in this sector is on land and on board. Even in the harshest lockdown in European countries and around the world, one thing was certain: supplying economies and the people of the world by sea continued to work effectively despite the unprecedented disruption.
And there are in fact further positive trends for the months ahead: although the results of the recent MEPC meeting regarding carbon intensity targets are not uncontroversial in terms of their assertiveness, the IMO Committee has sent another clear signal for further reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. And as we are of course not only talking about environmentally friendly newbuildings but first and foremost about making the existing fleet greener, this opens up various commercially attractive retrofit options for shipbuilders and suppliers.
And when discussing a more sustainable industry, the question of which fuel will power large seagoing ships in the future is likely to determine 2021 as well. While LNG is currently the only marketable fuel with which the industry can both move closer to the climate targets of the IMO and achieve further significant improvements in air pollution control, research and development activities continue to focus on making completely emission-free fuels available and usable.
Shipping is not only supposed to become greener but also smarter. The past few months have not only accelerated digitalisation in general but also have brought out extraordinary examples of innovative strength as autonomous and remotely controlled systems have been designed, tested and brought to market. And speaking of innovative strength: it is indeed remarkable how little the continuing economic disruption caused by the pandemic affected the positive creativity in digital marine business.
Now, it is important to bridge the time until the virus has been brought under control around the world, and to use the knowledge that we have gained through this extraordinary period for further innovation.