In this context, we have asked Mr. Theo Xenakoudis, Director, Worldwide Business Operations at IRI/The Marshall Islands Registry, to make an assessment of 2020 from his perspective and share his message for the new year across the global community. Among others, for the new year, he foresees strong growth across the markets and a focus on sustainable shipping practices.
I would like shipping to continue to safely incorporate some or part of the new techniques, like remote inspections, audits, and surveys into the operations of a post COVID-19 era;
SAFETY4SEA: Focusing on your area of expertise, what were the most important industry development(s) within 2020?
Theo Xenakoudis: No one could have anticipated the challenges the world has faced in 2020, but our industry has done an excellent job of addressing the COVID-19 challenges while remaining focused on other larger industry issues such as decarbonization, regulatory changes, and safety. The most important developments this year for the maritime industry are technology related. While we have all shifted to virtual work, many companies found innovative and new ways to use technology to support operations which could not go fully virtual. For the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Registry for example, we have used remote inspection technology to complete more than 800 remote inspections as of 30 November 2020.We also launched an online Economic Substance Regulations (ESR) Reporting Portal to issue a Certificate of Economic Substance Reporting Compliance with an electronic apostille, as permissible under the international apostille convention. Amendments made to RMI legislation early on in the pandemic have enabled us to conduct virtual closings to register ships and mortgages with no interruptions.
S4S: Focusing on your area of expertise, what do you think that will be the biggest challenge(s) for the industry in 2021?
Th.X.: Regulatory changes, especially those related to decarbonization will be a challenge the industry needs to address in 2021. The industry must also address the crew change challenges we’ve faced this year even after we’re through the pandemic. We cannot allow our seafarers to be put in such a vulnerable position again, we need to protect them worldwide. Our global economy depends on them and they should be recognized and respected as essential workers.
S4S: What would be the 2021 resolutions for your company/organisation?
Th.X.: Throughout our history we’ve been focused on customer service and high-quality standards. In 2021 I think you’ll see us continue to implement new technologies and digital processes to enhance the client experience. Technology cannot replace in-person inspections or the sharing of information, but it is a good tool to support and enhance safe vessel operations and global sharing of best practices.
S4S: What is your overall forecast for shipping industry in 2021 and what would you like to share and/or wish and/or ask other industry stakeholders?
Th.X.: We all agree that 2020 was a tough year and there are many challenges still ahead of us. What we all wish for is a bright horizon for shipping in 2021. Maybe this year has been unlike any other, but I think it only serves to make us stronger, adaptable, and more innovative. I think we’ll see strong growth across the markets and a focus on sustainable shipping practices.
New Year’s Resolution for our industry from Mr. Theo Xenakoudis, IRI