Shipping threat barometer 2023-2024. Sustainable development course

By Marek Grzybowski

Political and financial instability and cyber attacks, loss of reputation, as well as energy transformation and projected emission costs – these are the set of threats identified by shipowners and fleet managers during a study conducted by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

– ICS Maritime Barometer Report 2022-2023 is the first full-scale annual survey of risk and trust among maritime transport leaders – emphasize the authors of the study.

More than 130 decision makers took part in it, half of which are ship owners and approximately 35% are operators managing merchant ships. The study focused mainly on collecting information on such issues as:

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the maritime sector today?
How is the risk profile of the maritime sector changing?
How are companies prepared to mitigate long-term challenges and emerging issues?

“The maritime sector has been undergoing a process of rapid change for a long time, moving towards greener activities in the future, while also grappling with increased geopolitical instability,” notes ICS President Emanuele Grimaldi in his foreword.

It states that “Many maritime stakeholders are actively seeking greener development paths to drive growth in their sectors.” But many are losing ground. Maritime transport operators suffer from “constant uncertainty about routes leading to [offering services – MG] more environmentally friendly”.

On an ecological course
According to the president of ICS, this makes investments extremely risky and thus slows down the pace of much-needed progress. In his view, “We need clear direction from our regulators and political leaders.”
This is what investors, shipowners and maritime transport operators expect. Global Maritime Business Leaders Challenge “Delays in government decision-making will have far-reaching consequences for shipping.
In unstable times and as a result of the lack of decisive decisions, it is difficult to make strategic “choices about creating supply chain resilience, actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and carbon dioxide emissions, choosing alternative available marine fuels.”
Undoubtedly, the directions of development of sufficiently dense infrastructure, which will provide a wide network of access to new bunkering places in ports, are still unknown.
– These factors will determine how the industry will develop in the next decade – stresses Grimaldi.

New hierarchy of risks
Over the last year – in the opinion of the leaders operating in the maritime transport sector – the criteria for assessing risk levels have changed radically in the maritime transport industry. Threats resulting from political instability and disruption of the supply chain as well as emerging new barriers to trade were ranked first.
The report is divided into two main parts. The first addresses the most important threats, from political instability to the potential for loss of reputation in the industry.
“By tracking the shifting priorities of our leadership industry, the ICS Barometer will not only serve as a tool to convey expertise from the maritime business, but will also act as a compass to guide discussions with key stakeholders. This will facilitate progress in the areas of customization and identify other risks where a more refined or even new approach is more appropriate.

Protectionism, pirates and cyberattacks
It states unequivocally that “The shift towards greater protectionism could threaten maritime trade, and mitigation requires governments to recognize the importance of maritime trade to global prosperity.”
It also points to the necessity of incurring increasing costs imposed by the postulate of sustainable development of maritime transport. According to the operators, these costs are driven by “continued pressure on supply chains in recent years” and the need to continue investing in order to provide reliable sea freight services. The threat of various types of piracy is still present. The risk of running a maritime business threatened by war and cyberattacks is growing.
As financial and political risks increase, especially in connection with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, there are also concerns about the ability of companies to cope with problems caused by armed conflicts.

Decarbonisation, fuels and emissions
Respondents emphasized that there is a growing understanding of the industry to join the energy transformation process. But “the practical implications of the new greenhouse gas emissions reduction legislation remain of greatest concern.”
– We need to be vocal about our needs and ambitions so that the maritime sector is perceived as a priority area of support and placed in the direct interest of the deliberations of national governments and international regulators. Without such an approach, there is no doubt that global trade – and the people around the world who depend on it – will suffer long-term consequences, emphasizes Emanuele Grimaldi in the foreword to the ICS Report.
It was noted that some of the requirements of investors led to the increasing importance of environmental protection, social responsibility and sustainable management (ESG). Discussions are underway in the maritime transport industry on methods for data collection, assessment and verification of the effectiveness of activities in this area. Undoubtedly, this direction of action is beginning to dominate not only in the maritime business.