The Big Maritime Things In 2017

I have been making these lists since 2012, and so I feel compelled to add another one this year. Maybe I have not been paying attention as closely as usual, but somehow I did not see as many milestones as prior years. This should not be interpreted as gloom and doom. I just think that 2017 was a pregnant pause.

That pregnant pause may have been induced by what appears to me as worldwide weirdness driven by strange politics, but since one of my favorite maxims is “This too will pass,” I am retroactively dedicating 2017 to John Lennon’s “I am just sitting here watching the wheels go round.”

Meanwhile, there are plenty of things to watch in no particular order of significance:

1.   Trans-Pacific Trade Deal Death

You can’t win if you don’t play. Which player will win? There is now a partial deal without the US. Brexit anyone?

2.   Loss of Internationalism

It should never be forgotten that since WWII, we, as a world, have made amazing progress. All of that was due to internationalism in all its forms. Call me old-fashioned, but everybody leaving the playground and taking their stuff home is not the way to go.

3.   Loss of US International Leadership

Anybody who thinks that behaving like a bully will provide conservative stability will be in for a rude awakening.

4.   Fitzgerald, McCain Collisions

Year after year I have made mention of weird maritime collision events and other maritime failures. This year we had two big ones, and they were near identical. This is proof that those who are not willing to learn from their mistakes are fated to repeat them and, in this case, within the same year. These tragic incidents are not simple collisions; they are deep philosophical defense issues that, so far, have not been acknowledged and addressed by those who run the US Navy.  The true solutions to these issues are not related to what happened on these boats. They are related to what was lost ashore before these vessels left their berths:  Real Ethics, Real Mission, Real Courage, Real Innovation, and Real Mariners. In its 142-year existence, Martin & Ottaway has been involved in just about every major maritime disaster. Our involvement in this matter, so far, is the acme of deeply disturbing realizations.

5.   NYC Ferry System

Nothing new is easy, but if it really makes customers happy, the solutions to any operational problems will be found. Despite some hiccups, I am scoring the new ferry routes as a huge success. Now the bugs need to be worked out, but that’s how things get done in real life. Ferry math is just amazing, and, even in New York City, we are still in the early stages of modern ferry system design and implementation. Much more to come.

6.   Interesting America’s Cup Rules

As an old America’s Cupper, I have not been overly fond of the choice of vessels since 1987. But the proposed sailboats for upcoming America’s Cup may just return us to the greater game of sailboat racing where speed is significant, but tactics rule. This could be interesting.

7.   Real Options Valuations

US Navy operational failures do not mean that there are no smart people in the US Navy. There are, but as happens in all large organizations, the smart ones are not acknowledged due to the boners pulled by incompetent and cowardly leadership. The consideration of Real Options Valuation in Navy Ship procurement is just plain clever, and, hopefully, it will make it into the US Navy vessel procurement approach. Amazingly, it actually is a cost effective fit into the 355 vessel US Navy plan.

8.   No Major Container Shipping Company Bankruptcies

There have been mergers but, as far as I know, no big container shipping company crash and burns. There must be more operational financing out there than is immediately visible. But if there are no small crashes, there will be big crashes. Rates in 2017 were maybe a little better than 2016, but is it enough?

9.   Kings Point Sea Semesters Are Back On Line

In line with more recent developments, sexual harassment of cadets at sea reared its ugly head in 2016 and resulted in major disruptions to the USMMA program. MARAD stepped up and turned on the heat. Culture change is difficult, but an effort has been made and now it comes down to participation by all stakeholders. Cadets of all genders, leadership, and shipmates: Speak up through the proper channels right away if you encounter stuff you do not like. Nobody is saying it will be easy; but if it ain’t difficult, it ain’t worth doing.

10.  Autonomous Transportation

This is a repeat from my 2016 list. Today everybody is talking about it, and it will happen in maritime too, but autonomous cars first. It will change the world faster than autonomous ships. Unfortunately, we are not thinking and planning ahead. If we do not ask ourselves what type of autonomous cars we should have as a transportation system solution, we will probably not reduce per person carbon footprints. We should not think in terms of autonomous cars; we should think in terms of autonomous car systems.

11.  Aerospace

This is more of a footnote. Every year Aerospace America, the AIAA journal, produces its yearbook. This year’s version is an exceptional read on innovation and persistence, with my favorite bit relating to the actual prototyping and planned the deployment of the “Oxygenator” described in Andy Weir’s book “The Martian.” Firmly grounded fiction can drive reality. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is one example, and “The Martian” is now another.

12.  Cyber Security (One more thing by Ilayda Rosier) 

The AP Moller- Maersk cyber attack in June of 2017 proved the marine industry is also vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Maersk reported cost in the range of USD300 Million from the attack. Later, BW Group and Clarkson also reported that they were the victim of a cybersecurity hack. Following the attacks this year, ABS, DNV, and USCG released their Guidance for Implementing Cybersecurity programs, which hopefully will reduce attacks for 2018. The big question for 2018 is ” How ready is the maritime industry for the combination of unmanned vessels and cyber-security?” We shall see.