Looking Back to London

September 23, 2019 11:10 am

Those of you who attended London International Shipping Week (LISW19) will no doubt have been amazed at the sheer scale of the event. There were so many conferences, speakers, networking gatherings and get togethers, that it was sometimes overwhelming. What it did show was the sheer scale and scope of the challenges for shipping, and the solutions to help overcome them.


According to the organisers, LISW19 once again exceeded all expectations. Having attended many of the events and functions, we have to agree.

London welcomed thousands of global shipping industry leaders to more than 200 official events throughout the week. Initial estimates placed the number of UK and international visitors at approaching 20,000 – but there seemed many more.

Whatever the number of people, it was the amazing array of topics being discussed which was the real cause for celebration, and which draw so many shipping and maritime people into the debate.

From the Videotel perspective, so many of the key drivers for our business and the problems we help our clients to deal with and manage were upfront and centre. Issues such as low sulphur fuel, seafarer certification and competence, and performance management for vessels and crew alike.


There were some obvious key issues which took most of the stage time, limelight and focus around the coffee stations. Perhaps uppermost was the low sulphur debate, and the questions of just how owners, and indeed seafarers can be so sure they are doing the right thing.

Setting out real-world scenarios, a range of shipowners voiced real concerns that the exhaust sniffing technology that will be deployed by coastal and port States could see them in real trouble, for even the smallest transgressions.

As the deadline for compliance gets closer, it seems that the concerns are ramping up. There were many who thought that seafarers would likely bear the brunt – and charities were also expressing concerns that crews could be incarcerated for issues which may be beyond their control.

Across many events, it was talk of the development of low-carbon shipping technology, which was stressed as a priority, though there were also constant concerns about price, the effectiveness of equipment and the worries that there will be jurisdictional differentials which may hinder some owners.


There was optimism ultimately that in the future shipping will be the clean, efficient and effective industry that it needs to be. However, that did not insulate the debate from some very real and present dangers.

Many owners have, or are heading, down the scrubber retrofit route. Indeed, so many are now in the queue to have their vessels fitted, that delays in yards are a mounting concern. According to analysts speaking during the week, delays at shipyards to retrofit scrubbers on vessels are likely to keep at least 40 to 50 tankers off-hire for the remainder of the year. Something which will impact not only freight rates, but also oil flows.

There were concerns too about the quality and maintenance of scrubbers. Horror stories were emerging of systems having been corroded after just 6 months, while some presenters even showed videos of ship engine rooms awash with water from systems which have broken.

The rush to scrub has possible led to some short cuts, or even a failure to recognise the nature of waste produced. Mixing water with exhaust gases is a recipe for acid, corrosion and potential problems of disposal. It is clear that more guidance is needed, and thankfully Videotel has released a new film free to the industry.


The new Videotel training package called, “The 2020 Sulphur Regulations – Achieving Compliance” is free and pulls together the latest thinking and guidance on the new regulations, where and how they apply, how they are to be enforced and what crews and owners need to do to be compliant.

As stressed by the experts at LISW19, and covered in the new film, there are three main ways to achieve compliance:

  • Burn compliant fuels
  • Use alternative fuels
  • Install an exhaust gas cleaning system or ‘scrubber’

Each has its pros and cons, and there are important things which ships need to do if things go wrong. See more at https://landing.videotel.com/sulphur2020

The answers weren’t solely about scrubbers or even low sulphur alternatives. There was talks about imposing speeding tickets on owners, and even charging a potential premium on hydrocarbons to cut Maritime’s greenhouse gas emissions. Though it should be noted that there were some very challenging views heard, not least the thinking that getting shipping down to Zero-carbon will lead to a doubling of freight costs. Which sounds like a boon and boom for owners, until you consider that suddenly other forms of transport get more appealing at such price points.


Across literally hundreds of events there was so much discussion about so many of the issues facing shipping today. It was far from being simply about emissions, going green and marine fuels. There was a focus on issues such as accidents and safety, with insurers saying that the ever-growing trend of mega container ships is potentially skewing the whole risk equation. Especially with misdeclared cargoes so often being found onboard.

There was a focus on crew, with seafarer training and welfare at the fore. The amazing work of charities such as ISWAN, Mission to Seafarers, Sailors Society, Seafarers UK and Apostleship of the Sea was evidenced and rewarded. While we were also incredibly proud that our ‘Seafarers’ Mental Health and Wellbeing‘ training won the Best Crew Wellbeing Programme at the Safety at Sea Awards.

The category was for the best standout wellbeing initiative which, in the judges’ opinion, has helped protect crew mental health and wellbeing. Due to the critical importance of the topic, it was decided that the package would be made available free of charge and it can be downloaded by accessing https://landing.videotel.com/seafarerwellbeing

We are thrilled that this programme has been recognised as an important contribution to help seafarers who may be struggling when at sea, away from family and friends. Mental health issues can impact anyone, but seafarers face unique working and living conditions that pose additional challenges and require further consideration. Our programme has been helping make life better at sea, and that is something that matters greatly to us.


Another key aspect of the LISW debate was that of maritime technology. It was estimated that the value of the ship technology market will grow by over 160% over the next decade to reach $278bn by 2030.

While leading futurists queued up to hammer the message home that shipping companies which fail to embrace digitalisation will be the architects of their own downfall. There is no excuse, no reason and no avoiding the fact that shipping is going digital, and the transparency and engagement that brings will be a massive change.

“It was estimated that the value of the ship technology market will grow by over 160% over the next decade to reach $278bn by 2030.”

It was recognised that data is one thing, but it is managing it which is an often-overlooked part of the equation. That is where Videotel’s Performance Manager is so important and is shaping the way shipping companies, owners, ship managers, and operators are dealing with their training needs.

Videotel was pleased to have been on a key panel at the International Ship Suppliers Association (ISSA) conference, and we heard from many in the industry that there needs to be more focus not on generating data, but in making it work. If data is the new oil, then we need to be the means of harnessing and powering decisions with it. That is perhaps the key LISW19 message, digitalisation is about new opportunities, but it needs to be plugged into the old ways of doing things, to change, evolve and improve how shipping does its business.

What were your London International Shipping Week highlights? We’d love to hear of the events, discussions and debate!