Friday, July 10

Maritime players take positive stance towards industry’s prospects

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KUALA LUMPUR: Maritime players are taking a positive stance towards the domestic industry’s prospects this year, while looking forward to adopting green technology, and keeping pace with technological advances to stay relevant and competitive.

According to the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association (MASA) chairman, Datuk Abdul Hak Md Amin, the maritime sector, like any other, must keep pace with technology and adopt environmental friendly ways of doing business.

“These trends offer opportunities apart from enhancing efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint.

“The evolution of ship designs, more efficient engines, use of new materials and operational research, combined with data analytics and sensors,  present opportunities to all in the maritime industry.

“In Malaysia, the authorities are talking about gas-fuelled ship engines and the setting-up of Liquefied Natural Gas bunker facilities.

“This will be the future and we must make ourselves ready for these new developments or be out of the game,” he said in his speech at the recent Asia Pacific Maritime (APM) networking session.

Organised by Reed Exhibitions, the session was held prior to the 15th edition of APM in Singapore from March 14 to 16. The event will see 1,500 exhibitors from 60 countries and expects to attract over 15,000 trade visitors from the shipping fraternity across Asia.

At a glance, Abdul Hak said the shipping industry had been facing numerous challenges for the past few years and following the global economic downturn in late 2008.

“We also agree, on the home front, that our shipping sector including that of Oil & Gas, was not spared either. Many of our shipping companies and offshore shipping vessels (OSV) owners/ operators are facing difficulties. Some have gone under and those still surviving are managing just above the waterline,” he claimed.

He said however, with oil prices hovering at US$65 per barrel, the wish and prayer is that industry players will see light at the end of the tunnel soon.

On Malaysian shipping tonnage, Abdul Hak said it had declined from a peak of 15 million deadweight tonnage (dwt) to the current level of about 10 million dwt, with this scenario having affected the whole spectrum of the industry.

“The whole ecosystem is affected, including ship building/ship repair activities, design houses, freight forwarders, insurances and other aspects of the supply chains. But, the glaring issue is the loss of foreign exchange due to local cargo being carried by foreign tonnages.

“In 2016, the loss amounted to RM26 billion”, he added.

In a separate development, MASA will co-organise the annual “World Maritime Week” scheduled for Aug 7-10 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Holding out a similar opinion on the industry’s prospects, the Association of Marine Industries Malaysia Honorary Secretary, Nazery Khalid said it was still going through a rough patch.

“Demand for shipping services remains soft due to slow growth in world trade and cutbacks in offshore exploration and production activities in the oil and gas industry.

“Although many companies involved in shipping, shipbuilding / ship repair and a host of supporting services are suffering with some having folded, there are those which have remained resilient amid the turbulent times.

“They understand that demand for shipping in a country like Malaysia, whose economy is dependent on seaborne trade and offshore oil and gas industries and other maritime economic activities, will always be there.

“Hence, taking a long term view of the prospects of the industry, they continue to ride on the challenging waves amid the downturn in the industry,” he added.

Despite the challenging business landscape, Nazery maintains that there are pockets of opportunities, moreso for industry players who are innovative, cost efficient and responsive to changing regulatory demands and market dynamics in the marine industry.

Citing shipyards for example, he said the growing focus on green shipping and reducing the carbon footprint from shipping activities, presented an opportunity to build ships with eco-friendly and energy efficient features. — Bernama