Much of the world hears the words “shipping industry” and thinks it must be pretty simple. Stuff is put on a big boat, it goes someplace, then the stuff is taken off the boat and ends up at your local retail store or at the car dealership around the corner. The reality, as anyone in the industry knows, is far more complex.
In today’s world, getting goods from one part of the world to another is a massive technological and logistical endeavor. With an industry this complex, there are bound to be issues, pitfalls and challenges that must be dealt with in order to keep the industry moving smoothly, efficiently and profitably.
These challenges are the focus of a recent report on safety and shipping. The report looks at shipping losses in 2015 and the causes for those losses. The report finds a number of issues that the shipping industry will need to face now and into the future.
Cyber-Piracy on the Rise
One of the major issues facing the shipping industry, according to the report, doesn’t even touch the water. A number of shipping incidents have been caused, at least in part, by hackers who broke into port computer systems in order to get information about specific cargo.
“There are indications pirates may be abusing holes in cyber security to target specific targets,” the report says.
The idea, though, that computer hackers could effectively send a ship into a trap or that hackers could “steal” a ship with a cyber-attack is not yet a reality. However, the report warns that this could become an issue in the future if steps are not taken soon to improve system safety.
Another key challenge for shipping industry safety is the size of today’s ships. With the dawn of the mega ships, any potential incident can take on a scale that makes it more difficult to salvage. And since the number of mega ships currently at sea is small, these ships are not readily available to salvage goods should such an incident occur.
Instead, a number of smaller ships are needed to make sure salvage can occur, which can put further strain on the industry as a whole in the short term.
According to one article, “The appetite for ever-larger container ships has seen cargo-carrying capacity of the largest vessels increase by over 70 percent over the past decade, to carry 19,000+ containers today. Two “mega ships” were grounded in February 2016, raising safety concerns about what could happen should a more serious incident occur.
Weathering the Storm
Another issue the shipping industry must face is one that is out of its control: Mother Nature.
Meteorological predictions anticipate more extreme weather conditions in coming years, the report says, which could bring additional safety risks for shipping and potential disruption to supply chains. Hurricanes and bad weather were contributing factors in at least three of the five largest vessels lost during 2015.
The report goes on to point out that South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines are seen as the global weather loss hot spots.
“Weather routing will continue to be a critical component to the safe navigation of vessels.”
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