Maritime influencers


George Xiradakis: The Maritime Shipping Industry in Flux | Adapting to a Changing Landscape

George Xiradakis, Founder and Managing Director XRTC Business Consultants, President of the Association of Banking and Financial Executives of Hellenic Shipping

The shipping trends play a vital role in global trade as transporting goods worth trillions of dollars yearly, undertaking 90% of global transportation. According to OECD, the forecasted maritime trade volumes will be tripled by 2050, as the population growth and the continued urbanization will lead to an increase in demand for maritime shipping services. These projections urge the maritime shipping industry to continue its efforts for innovation and adoption to new technologies in order to meet both the increased demand and the transition to a zero-emissions regime according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The move toward green technology is a critical trend in maritime shipping. With increasing public awareness of the need to protect the environment, it is becoming increasingly crucial for maritime companies to adopt green practices. 

While it is the most carbon efficient means of transportation (on a CO2 per ton-km basis), shipping still accounts for one billion tons of CO2 per year, around 3% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. The maritime trade volumes that are forecasted to triple by 2050, will bring up the CO2 equivalent emissions to 250% increase.

Over the past decade, the maritime industry has made significant strides in its decarbonization journey. The introduction of Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) in 2013 and subsequently Energy Efficiency eXisting ship Index (EEXI) and Carbon Intensity Index (CII) in 2022 have significantly increased the efficiency of both newly delivered and existing ships since 2013. The recently revised IMO greenhouse gas strategy has now set revised targets to further increase efficiency and move the industry to net zero emissions, by or close to 2050.

Under this scope, undoubtedly the maritime sector is poised for a profound transformation in the coming years. Advancements in propulsion technologies, optimizing vessels’ design, and adopting alternative fuels are pivotal. 

As the regulatory environment and stakeholder pressure around decarbonization and emissions reductions are ramping up, compliance with these regulations will be essential if shipowners want to elevate the industry and maintain its relevance. Additionally, prioritizing digitalization through data analytics and automation will help to optimize operations and boost efficiency – but only as long as they balance against cyber security risks. However, by focusing on these key areas, the maritime industry can significantly contribute to global sustainability goals and navigate the evolving business landscape.

Shipping Companies are exploring ways to leverage new technologies to improve the efficiency and productivity of their investments. Other industries have been affected by digitizing their operations much earlier than the shipping industry, which is due to the inherent complexity of the maritime industry. 

It is estimated that it will require between $1–1.4tn of cumulative investment across the shipping industry and its value chain, to reach the IMO’s target of reducing absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050 (or $50–70bn annually between 2030–2050). 

A study of UMAS Advisors and the Energy Transitions Commission for the Global Maritime Forum for the Getting to Zero Coalition shows that 87% of the above investment relates to land-based infrastructure and the remaining 13% to on-board technologies. The capital would be spread over 20 years – between 2030 and 2050 – and would be the result of a joint effort between different stakeholders, including primarily the financial institutions and the banks.

The banks face growing calls to play their part in addressing today’s environmental and social concerns, following the new set of mandatory directives, frameworks and tables issued by the European Banking Authority (EBA) that the banks must follow. The Greek shipowners with the support mainly of European banks have already started this effort. New orders for ships with alternative fuels have already been financed, while the renewal of the Greek fleet, which is one of the youngest in the world, in a continuous process. Even though large and traditional European shipping banks have proceeded in recent years to reduce or sell their portfolios, the percentage they hold in the total of Greek shipping financing reaches 78% (according to 2021 data).

The remaining percentage of financing is covered by Leasing companies from Asian countries, mainly Chinese, who found the opportunity to enter the space, taking advantage of the lack of regulatory frameworks and their eagerness to support their yards.

One of the drivers for banks and financial institutions to extend green/sustainable loans is the potential ability to access a new type of investor base through the capital markets. Green or sustainable bonds can be issued, which differs from conventional bonds in that the issuer provides a set of green or sustainable criteria and undertakes to use the capital raised for projects that meet those criteria. As a result, banks and financial institutions may have capital earmarked solely for green or sustainable projects.

The European Union’s green transition plan, linking financing to borrowers’ performance on environmental, social and governance (ESG), the implementation of the Basel IV framework by the European financial institutions shows the path to the shipping companies to access financing at competitive costs and terms.

The coming decades the Asian economies are projected to dominate, driven by shifting population dynamics, new resource demands and technological innovations. Already, as of 2021, the Asian economies accounted for 43% of maritime exports and 64% of imports, while four of the top five countries supplying seafarers in global shipping, were in Asia, with the Philippines ranking first country. The same estimates suggest that, in 2050, Asian countries, namely India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, will make up half of the world’s top ten economies. As the economic and political influence of Asian economies increases, maritime trade in the region will continue to expand. 

The new business environment demands the shipping industry to shift from the traditional business model of selling capacity, to one that offers value to customers. We need concrete actions in the form of investments, technology scaling, infrastructure readiness and real progress in reducing the costs. Upgrading or transforming the existing practices, adopting, and operating new technologies under the expertise of skilled seafarers, leveraging Artificial Intelligence and the latest achievements of humankind but most importantly collaborating and coordinating with all maritime stakeholders, will propel us as a sustainable and forward-thinking maritime industry.

A resilient maritime sector is one that is equipped to withstand and adapt to changing conditions and recover positively from shocks and stresses, whether they be related to climate hazards, geopolitical uncertainty, technological change, decarbonization efforts, or other unforeseen disruptors. Greek shipping, with its long-standing know-how and collective dynamism has always been a testament to resilience and adaptability and has proved and will continue to be capable in finding a balance between environmental stewardship and business profitability will be key to success.

The dynamism and the future bet of Greek shipping does not merely depend on “seamanship”, but it rather lies in the significant investment in innovation as well as in high level education and training of its executives and its staff. Finally it depends on its continuous strength and capability in adopting risky investment that leads the national shipping industry to maintain its leading position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *