Full steam ahead!

Law firm highlights greatest challenges facing shipping industry while UK presents regulatory strategy for autonomous shipping and environment.


The shipping industry is facing a period of great change, including an increasing focus on environmental issues and regulatory demands, just as the UK unveils its new strategy to boost London as a maritime centre.

Shipping's digtal age

Industry participants were asked by Reed Smith how prepared they are for the digital age, resulting in a report ‘Is the shipping industry embracing the digital age?’ While 18.2 per cent  of respondents highlighted flattened demand growth, this was closely followed by industry consolidation forcing freight rates down (16.7 per cent) and meeting fuel emissions regulations (15 per cent). Andrew Taylor, co-head of Reed Smith’s global Transportation Industry Group, said ‘the next five years are likely to be a challenge for the industry, with significant expenditure needed to ensure compliance with new regulations while maintaining competitiveness.’ The survey also revealed that analytics of big data as well as technology to address environmental issues and emissions are expected to be the most significant technological drivers of change over the next five years, and blockchain.

Autonomous shipping regulation

Speaking at the IMO, UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling launched the Maritime 2050 strategy outlining how the UK plans to lead the charge in emerging maritime technology. Mr Grayling laid out plans to develop a legal framework for testing autonomous ships and spearhead an international regulatory framework for these vessels. He also set out actions to become a trailblazer for green technologies, ‘whether that’s exploring ways to nurture the growth of zero emission shipping, closer collaboration between industry and government through the Clean Maritime Council or by setting bold targets for the long term future, such as aiming for all UK ferries to be emission free.’ He explained, ‘these are all steps that will not only help Britain meet its international environmental obligations and help the industry to enjoy the economic rewards of the move to cleaner technology.’ Mr Grayling added, ‘as well as ratifying treaties such as the Ballast Water Management and Hong Kong conventions that seek to lessen maritime’s environmental impact, this document underlines how we will work with our partners at the IMO towards a global target of cutting maritime greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050.’ The strategy can be read here.

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