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Niklas Holck, Costamare: “We suffer a lot from schlep-blindness”

Niklas Holck, Managing Director of Costamare, is commenting on the value of digitalisation in the shipping industry.

At this year’s Global Liner Shipping & Shipping2030 Asia, we gathered some of the most prominent thought leaders, and asked them to share their views on the hottest topics in shipping and maritime.

Niklas Holck, Managing Director of Costamare, is commenting on the value of digitalisation in the shipping industry.

Watch the interview or read the transcript below.

Lili Nguyen: Last year you were here with us talking about digitalisation and leveraging digital innovations to meet customer demands. Are these demands met yet?

Niklas Holck: Not at all, and to be honest, we haven’t fully understood what these demands are. So, the first thing we need to do is to figure out why it is that we want to digitalise. Before we get to the ‘how?’ and the ‘what?’, and [deciding on] which technologies we should use – platform or app? – we need to figure out why do we need digitalisation? What painpoints can we solve?

I’d say we reached the point where we understood most of them – or many of them – but we are still in the process of developing specific solutions for overcoming these painpoints. We are still pretty far away.

LN: What are the challenges of adopting new technologies and innovations in the maritime industry?

NH: Shipping is perhaps the most old-fashioned industry in the world. When you charter ships, for example, it still involves signing stacks of paper and FedEx-ing them halfway across the world. We suffer a lot from what some people call schlep-blindness. You are so stuck in what you’ve done in the last thousand years that you don’t realise that this is not the best way you could be doing.

Shipping is all about safety and not making mistakes, whereas starting to digitalise your business model and your processes requires experimenting, and experiments end up in mistakes. It’s hard to convince people to be willing to make mistakes where no mistakes are permitted.

So, we need to experiment, and we need to figure out how we could leverage these new technologies to help solve our problems.

LN: How do you see this industry transform thanks to digital technologies in the next 5 years?

NH: I think it’s going to be very fast. As soon as you get people to see that there is a concrete benefit from digitalising some part of what they do, I think they’ll be hungry for more. We just saw KD Adamson’s presentation about exponential growth, and I think the same thing applies here. Once we reach that point where people are able to understand what the possibilities are, it’ll move fast. We just need to get to that tipping point, and we are still on our way the hill.

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