I am grateful to the membership for the confidence that you have reposed in me to serve you as President over the last three years. It has been a period of dramatic transition for the industry and for the Association; and we are still evolving. It has also been three years marked by robust and committed service to you, our valued members.
However, no one will deny that it has been a tumultuous three years marked by rapid changes in the global shipping landscape. Not the least of these is the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in June 2016, and how it is likely to change the face of shipping across the globe. Post Panamax ships which are 25 percent longer, 53 percent wider, and whose draft is 23 percent deeper than the current Panamax class ships can now traverse this historic waterway, effectively facilitating the passage of even more cargo along this key shipping route of the Americas. Regional maritime experts agree that it is difficult to accurately predict the benefits, or consequences, of the expansion of the Panama Canal. However, at the very least, the world’s shipping lines operational strategies for their global networks are bound to change.
Also, sustained weakness in global trade growth, unrelenting competition, a mismatch in supply and demand, and historically low freight rates have all combined in such a way as to shake up the status quo. Stakeholders everywhere have been forced to cut costs drastically and seek out operating efficiencies wherever such can be found. This has led to carriers and lines continuing to engage in alliances, mergers, acquisitions. We have seen one major Line collapsing. This is a time of rapid- re transformation and evolution – both operationally and structurally and as such our business has been reduced to a basic game of survival. But survive we shall!
As an Association, we have sought consistently to ensure that we are functioning in the best way possible to the benefit of our members. We have been tasked to determine how we will manoeuvre to provide additional value given the changes that we have all been experiencing in the global shipping industry over the past year. How do we anticipate the changes coming down the pipeline and provide the appropriate support and representation for our membership, our industry and our employees?
Our response is to strengthen our commitment to the evolution of our operations accordingly as part of a process of continuous change. We must be bold in our vision of what could be, compare it with the lessons from the past, and develop improvements based on the combined experiences of all involved while innovating to keep pace with global trends and stay at the top of our game.