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7 Leaders Weigh In On Being A Maritime Leader Of The Future

maritime leadership2

90% of the world’s goods are transported by ships, making the maritime industry a crucial part of the global economy. However, leaders in maritime today face many challenges posed by the evolution of automation, changing economic landscape and globalization. How is the role of maritime leaders changing in light of that?

7 professionals discuss the most important skills for leaders of the future.

Maritime leaders as change managers

A recent study undertaken by Prosper on European maritime professionals, showed that future leaders need to possess more people-related skills. It is more important than ever for leaders to have a vision that they can use to inspire and steer their employees and peers in the right direction.

Bharat Hora, Chief Engineer, Lloyd’s Maritime Academy Course Director (Ship Superintendency and Marine Purchasing & Supply Management) and Member of IMarEST

“This is an era of change. The rapidly changing maritime industry will require its leaders to have the vision to look clearly into the future and be prepared for it. Effective change management skill will be one of the most important keys. Ability to learn and relearn to stay current, effective utilization of ‘big’ data and artificial intelligence will be the other important ones. This however does not take away the importance of soft skills which will be needed more so as we move into the era of so called ‘autonomous’ vessels. Humans and robots will coexist. The ability and skill to work with people and technology together will be extremely important. Also important will be mentoring skills, as fewer people will work at specific tasks. “

Mike Wall, Marine Consultant, Trainer & Author Lloyd’s Maritime Academy

“There are many skills required to be a good leader but looking after your people is one of the most important. Look after them and they will look after you and your business.

I also believe that economic analysis tools are particularly important in making the right financial and management decisions. Unfortunately, many engineers do not receive this training.”

Dr. Cecilia Osterman, Kalmar Maritime Academy

“An important starting-point is that there is no single "best" style of leadership – one size rarely fits all. For a maritime leader of the future, it is not about traditional power and control, but the ability to adapt to people and to work situations. Our future leaders have no option but to be good change managers. Embrace the opportunities, but be honest, transparent, fast and fair!

Societal demands are pushing sustainability up the agenda. Future leaders must develop skills and practices for social as well as environmental sustainability. This involves designing both the physical and social aspects of organisations to ensure safe and efficient work environments, provide equal opportunities, and encourage diversity. Our future leaders need to understand not only potential benefits of short-termism, but also the cost of the time, morale, and creativity when people are forced to spend brain power on workarounds or conflicts.”

Natalie Shaw, Director Employment Affairs, ICS shipping

“The diversity of roles available for future maritime leaders inevitably means that different skill sets will be required dependent upon the role taken up. At a company level, good understanding of market economics, marketing and managing change are fundamental.  At an administration level, good understanding of the political issues and challenges now in the future are essential together with excellent communication skills and ability to tell a story succinctly and effectively. At a trade association level, a combination of both the company level and administration level skills are appropriate.”

Financial and technical understanding for Industry 4.0

Autonomous ships and digital transformation are set to disrupt many aspects of shipping.  Technical understanding and willingness to innovate can the set the foundation for good leadership. It will also help bridge the gap between generations of maritime professionals.  

Mark Williams, top 50 Tanker Shipping & Trade Industry Leader

“Future Maritime Leaders must continue the tradition of combining up-to-date technical knowledge with commercial acumen. For instance, an understanding of the global LNG as bunker fuel infrastructure is a technical piece of knowledge, while a vision of how to take advantage of it at the right time to provide a competitive advantage is commercial acumen. Future Maritime Leaders must be able to envisage their companies and operations in the context of Industry 4.0, a hyper-connected and transparent world in which corporate veils evaporate and the asymmetry of information that has provided competitive advantage via broking networks becomes 'democratized'  - more easily available more immediately with a faster refresh rate. The response to this is likely to be an old one: ask yourself, where will my most successful customers be in five or ten years time and how can I join them on that journey? Pick your partners well and you will survive and even flourish.

So: technical understanding, commercial acumen, strategic vision and partnership-building are the top four skills I look for in leaders.”  

Melvin Mathews, Director New Business, Wärtsilä
(Shipping through the eyes of “Generation Next”)

“Understanding the people of the future is perhaps more important than predicting the future as we see it, because how we see the future may be a lot different from how the next generation sees it. Strategies for attracting fresh talent and more importantly retaining them must evolve, taking into consideration different mind-sets and what drives them. Design, technology, and visual interfaces must cater to the needs and preferences of the generation that is going to use them.

One day there may be drones and autonomous ships everywhere that have no need for seafarers, and I hope it happens soon. However, until we get there, let us create technology that the next generation can easily use, modify and evolve. I believe that understanding the next generations should be our number one priority.”

Simon Norton, an expert in shipping finance, believes the volatility of the industry means shipowners have to work together and with investors to develop new ways of thinking.

Simon Norton, Course Director for Shipping Commercial Management, Lloyd’s Maritime Academy
“To survive future downturns, owners will need to be creative in terms of corporate capital ‘endoskeletons’. All too often the debt-equity structure has been viewed as being essentially static; in contrast, today’s financial markets provide ‘template’ instruments and techniques which may be transferable to the shipping sector to accommodate its cyclical characteristics, including variants of traditional convertible bonds. Owners presently have to overcome lenders’ conservatism and Basel risk-weighting concerns. Potential shareholders also need to be convinced to invest in a historically volatile industry to a greater extent than, paradoxically, companies which have weaker asset bases, particularly internet businesses. Niche funds are always looking for opportunities, and private placements of more sophisticated instruments may be a way to meet demand. Owners are able to offer two sources of opportunity: to participate in cyclically-driven earnings, and also the prospect of benefiting from asset price appreciation. Conversely, owner risk in both regards can be passed over, in part, to investors willing to assume it for a premium or return on a financial instrument.  In the future, receivables will pooled, not by single owner originators but instead by several owners working together, raising capital via securitisation at potentially lower costs. Greater use of medium term sinking funds may help assuage principal repayment concerns; in this context providers of residual value insurance need to ‘up their game’ by reducing product costs through innovation and liquidity. Owners will need to ‘think outside the box’, instead of leaving this to lenders who have no incentive to innovate; after all, it is not their business which is on the line.”

This is the opportunity for leaders of the future to not only lead the technical evolution of the sector, but also to provide an environment that is more sustainable, people-oriented and perceptive for everyone in maritime.

If you want to develop your skills in this area, our Diploma in Maritime Management and Leadership starts on the 29th April taught by Tony Browne.

July 2018