The Conference theme is ‘Accelerating Transitions’

Accelerating Transitions! We are all aware that the port and maritime shipping industry is facing a major transition enforced by climate change and its consequent impacts and measures. But complying with new, environmental rules of engagement is just one major transition this industry is facing.

On the geopolitical front, also new realities are taking shape. On the one hand there is the America First-doctrine by President Trump that is shaking up international affairs and dismantling the same open and rules-based global trading regime that America itself so successfully has shaped and defended over the last 75 years. On the other hand, there is China that with its ambitious Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is assertively positioning itself as the champion of global trade. Without taking any moral or political position, America First and BRI both highlight how geopolitics is re-shaping global trade, geographies and demand for ocean shipping.

Furthermore in shipping the digital revolution is just getting started: platforms and applications are disrupting industries and business models, just in the way the introduction of ‘the box’ did. And intelligent tools to harvest and exploit big data are at the core of many start-ups, within and beyond the maritime industry. These big data and tools provide enormous opportunities for modelling and analytics in support of optimization and scientific inquiry.

Moreover, we should remain critical and curious as an academic community and have the courage to address thoughts, hypotheses and lines of investigation that questions dominant paradigms. Digitization and interconnectedness come with new vulnerabilities, see for example the Stuxnet –virus and cybersecurity threats. Robotics, algorithms and autonomous systems place even more emphasis on the human-AI interface than even before, both in terms of skills and application as in ethics and design. And Schumpeterian creative destruction comes at a cost, in terms of the potential loss of conventional jobs (seafarers, dockworkers, warehouse workers): it differentiates between those firms that can accelerate and who cannot.

In many ways, the transitions the maritime industry face are part of wider systemic changes in the world economy. It is not a choice or an option, it is happening, unfolding and in many ways self-organizing. The challenge for the academic community is to stay on track with these transitions, facilitate accelerations where needed, but with one hand on the gear that allows for second-opinion, calibration and validation. That is what we want to bring to the core of this years IAME conference while not leaving the more fundamental and ever relevant research topics aside.