Seatrade Maritime Middle East Virtual 2020 (SMMEV), the region’s leading event in the shipping industry, concluded yesterday, with two sessions featuring a panel of experts from the maritime industry in the Middle East region.
The three-day event provided an ideal platform for knowledge sharing and networking, uniting professionals from the industry globally and highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the logistics ecosystem and professionals who are part of the industry.
Day three of the event featured sessions on building a resilient supply chain and adapting to the “new normal”, while also tackling the fundamental issue of the physical and mental wellbeing of seafarers.
The first session highlighted the impact of the pandemic and the acceleration of digitalisation, with a keynote speech by Dr. Noura Al Dhaheri, Head of the Digital Cluster, Abu Dhabi Ports and CEO, Maqta Gateway.
“The year 2020 has demonstrated that what is required by companies to endure is a strong business model backed by robust digital infrastructure and processes that can react swiftly to evolving circumstances. The focus on reducing complexity, risk and uncertainty is a must. When we consider the fact that the World Economic Forum estimates that up to 20 per cent of the US$9 trillion worth of goods shipped annually is spent on administration alone, digital can unlock a new era by changing and modernising how we do businesses,” she said.
Despite the challenges that cropped up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ports in the region put up a brave front, tackling the crisis head-on, utilising the power of digitalisation.
Robert Sutton, Head of Abu Dhabi Ports’ Logistics Cluster, Abu Dhabi Ports (ADP), asserted, “2020 is, without doubt, a year of surprises, challenges and opportunities. We believe that the pandemic is a trigger for innovation and certainly, it has proven to be the case for the ADP.”
Edward Tah, CEO, Saudi Global Ports, said, “The pandemic has had a deep and broad-based impact on the economy over a long period. The positive outcome of the pandemic is the adoption of digital activities.”
Seafarers around the world faced unprecedented challenges including delayed crew changes, strenuous work hours, at times even being stranded at sea for days. In June, this year the number of stranded seafarers was estimated to be 150,000. By September, it rose to 400,000.
Toby Brooks, Deputy Director, Isle of Man Ship Registry, explained, “We have experienced first-hand the crew repatriation crisis, our attempt to review each case and support the needs of our seafarers have in some cases revealed a common truth.”
Brooks added, “Port State Control efforts to enforce contract lengths to the letter of the MLC are not always in tune with the border controls that have been put in place and often disregard the travel plans the shipowner or manager has put in place so well planned crew change arrangements have been thrown into disarray and even suffered detentions as a result.”
Matt Dunlop, Group Director HSEQ and Technical, V. Group believed, “As an industry, we need to make sure with retention in mind, we do everything we can with hearts and minds to make sure we support our seafarers throughout this process to retain them and bring them back when they are rested and ready to go.”
Raal Harris, Group Creative Director, Ocean Technologies, stated that a combination of skills is required for a modern seafarer, including being digitally savvy, and excellent communication and leadership skills.
Chris Hayman, Chairman, Seatrade remarked, “We are thrilled beyond measure that despite the disruption in the market, we could host the event and witnessed significant participation not only from leaders in the industry regionally and globally but also from professionals.”
Attendees can access exclusive on-demand content for a series of podcasts from industry leaders until 31st December, 2020. Experts will talk about subjects such as the evolution of classification, digital standardisation, equality in the maritime industry, innovation and growth in the KSA logistics market and more.
The in-person event of Seatrade Maritime Middle East is expected to take place in 2021 at the Expo 2020 site. The hybrid event will allow for virtual interactions, allowing global businesses to work in the Middle East