Seatrade Maritime Middle East Virtual 2020 (SMMEV), the region’s leading event in the shipping industry, commenced virtually yesterday. The event that will wrap up on December 16, has a successful first day with insightful discussions and significant support from key leaders in the industry from the Middle East and around the globe. This platform united professionals from the industry, shedding light on pertinent topics including recovery strategies to tackle the COVID-19 and the market outlook of the energy business.
A vital industry
The event was opened with a video address by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, IMO who spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the maritime sector and seafarers. He said, “The world depends on maritime trade and this has been in evidence as shipping has continued to deliver vital goods, food and medical supplies throughout the pandemic. Sadly, we have also seen how seafarers have become collateral victims, hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stranded onboard or desperate to get to ships or home. We are working in close collaboration and cooperation with the UN agencies, with industry stakeholders and the governments to try to resolve this crisis.”
Lim added, “I’m certain we will have an opportunity to build back a better more efficient and greener [industry]. To achieve this IMO’s comprehensive network of regulation covering all aspects of shipping has never been so relevant. The pandemic has illustrated the need for greater efficiency, shipping sustainability beyond the pandemic will depend on its ability to embrace digitalisation and new and smart technologies.”
He also stressed on the importance of international cooperation, targeted holistic intervention and investment today for a more sustainable tomorrow, while weighing on the fact that it is imperative for the industry to work together to enable a sustainable post-pandemic recovery and a sustainable future.
Lessons from the COVID-19 crisis
Lim’s opening address was followed by a keynote by Abdulla Bin Damithan, Chief Commercial Officer of DP World, UAE Region, post which the first session of the event titled The Road to Recovery was held.
Commenting on the repercussions of the pandemic, Abdulla Bin Damithan, Chief Commercial Officer of DP World, UAE Region said, “We have all taken a huge hit. It is a huge challenge but at the same time, it is also a chance for a new beginning. The UAE has already embarked on this [recovery] path. Our sustained investments in technology have been the major contributor for DP World to remain resilient throughout this pandemic. We are still trying to constantly reinvent and adapt to changes.”
H.E. Eng Hessa Al Malek, Advisor to the UAE Minister for Maritime Transport Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure who was a part of the panel discussed the significance of public-private partnerships to continue attracting new investments into UAE. She said, “My big belief is on innovation and the uptake of new technologies. At UAE, we are encouraging our partners to look into new technologies and adopting new systems. The maritime sector is not one where you can adopt something new just within your waters; it needs international adoption due to the international nature of the business.”
Chris Hayman, Chairman, Seatrade said, “The global pandemic has shaken the core of business around the world. The events business was impacted in a major way too with most events getting cancelled or postponed. The team at Seatrade has underpinned its position as one of the leading maritime events in the industry by utilizing the power of technology to offer an immersive experience at SMMEV. It’s heart-warming to see the support the event has received from the industry and the strong participation from professionals.”
The dynamics of the energy industry
The second session of the day “How should the offshore and maritime industries prepare for the global energy transition?” highlighted the energy supply chain, particularly in the offshore sector. Panellists discussed the market outlook from 2025 and beyond. They also spoke about how the energy transition affects the demand for offshore support vessels, reduced operational emissions and more.
Commenting on the shift in the energy industry in the coming years, Mark Williams, Managing Director, Shipping Strategy Ltd. said, “The energy transition is upon us. With regard to transport fuels, about two-third of every barrel is turned into transport fuel and therefore we are going to have to switch out of those and move to alternatives sometime around mid-century. That means oil demand is most likely going to fall. That’s going to impact all means of transportation, and that’s going to have a knock-on effect all the way up the value chain.”
Martin Helweg, Chief Executive Officer, P&O Maritime Logistics said, “We will see a big growth in the renewable sector which is good for our planet, the society in general. It is also an opportunity for the offshore sector. There will be significant changes in the dynamics of traditional energy companies, how they contract and how they look at the supply chain. As a vessel owner and vessel operator you need to be conscious.”
The event came to a close on a high note with the announcement of the winners of the 17th Seatrade Maritime Awards Middle East, Indian Subcontinent & Africa 2020. The prestigious awards honoured the work of individuals and organisations that made a mark this year despite the global pandemic.
The exhibition and networking opportunities continue until December 16. 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.