The start of 2013 has brought with it a flurry of predictions and aspirations for the year ahead, reflecting both pessimism about the ongoing financial woes facing shipping companies, as well as a more optimist perspective on the opportunities that always emerge during times of change.  We take a look at some of the key themes expected to dominate the shipping world during 2013.

Collaboration and consolidation in a tough market
Leading shipping bank DNB offered a few crumbs of comfort as the shipping industry entered its sixth year of downturn.  It anticipates a recovery in bulk rates in 2013, led by slower growth in the size of the global bulk fleet, which will start to redress the problems of over-capacity.  Chemical and product tanker sectors are also set to recover, according to DNB, but the crude tanker and container sectors are expected to remain flat during the year ahead.

In the face of such ongoing financial instability, Fairplay editor Richard Clayton calls for shipping to be returned to maritime friendly companies that truly care about keeping vessels safe and the oceans free from pollution.  Whilst bank finance will be as hard to obtain as ever and market rates will continue to be determined by the surge in newbuild tonnage, he sees potential benefits from greater collaboration between shipping companies during 2013.  Elsewhere, others argue that certain sectors, such as container shipping, will require not just co-operation, but true consolidation in order to restore market stability in the year ahead.

Greener shipping
2013 will see further regulatory change and technological advances that will help the shipping industry take further steps towards a greener future.  This includes the regulations that took effect on 1 January governing the introduction of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which is mandatory for all new vessels, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), which is mandatory for all vessels.  These regulations will help to deliver higher levels of efficiency during the design of a vessel and throughout its operational life.

Of course, what’s good for the environment – such as reducing the fuel consumption of your vessels – can also be good for the balance sheet, but it will not have escaped anyone’s notice that shipping is not facing the most benign of economic conditions.  This has led the International Chamber of Shipping to call for greater “regulatory sustainability” in 2013, arguing for a pragmatic balance between environmental priorities and the current economic climate to ensure that regulation can be implemented without forcing companies out of business.

Safer shipping
Sustainability and safety top the agenda for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).  Koji Sekimizu, IMO Secretary-General, has unveiled the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day, which will be ‘Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20’ and emphasised the IMO’s renewed focus on sustainable development goals, with the promise of an industry wide consultation later this year.  Mr Sekimizu has also pledged to take all possible steps to promote safety at sea and set a target of reducing lives lost at seat by half by 2015.

Happily, when it comes to the piracy threat to seafarer safety, there is cause for some optimism.  According to EU Navfor, 35 vessels were attacked and five ships hijacked off Somalia in 2012, which was a significant fall from the 176 attacks and 25 hijackings in 2011.  The shipping industry continues to improve its protocols for the provision of armed guard security, as well as its use of training, intelligence (including the UKHO’s own Maritime Security and Anti-Piracy Charts) and other vessel hardening solutions.

Seafarer welfare
In its Reflections 2013 publication, shipping association BIMCO hopes that 2013 will be the year for improved treatment of seafarers.  Whilst questioning whether seafarers are presently given the recognition they deserve, “the entry into force of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention in August 2013 will, it is hoped, be a further contributor to better and fairer treatment of this essential workforce.” The publication also highlighted the importance of continuing education for seafarers.

Transition to digital navigation
The safety of crew, vessels and cargoes also relies upon safe navigation and 2013 will be an important year in the ongoing digital transition.  The next deadline for the mandatory carriage of ECDIS will arrive in July, when all new cargo vessels over 10,000gt must comply with the revised SOLAS regulations.  However, with a rolling series of deadlines between now and 2018, shipping companies need to act now in order to ensure that their fleet is ECDIS-ready.  With up to 200,000 officers requiring generic and type-specific training, this is no small task.  Early preparation and proper training are imperative if vessels are to be ready and bridge officers are to be competent and confident in the use of ECDIS.

UKHO is playing its part during the year ahead by organising a series of free-to-attend Digital Integration Workshops, as well as offering bridge officers the chance to win free places on generic ECDIS training courses, funded by UKHO.

Here’s looking forward to a busy 2013!

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