COVID-19, its Impacts on the Maritime Industry, and Future Technology

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The pandemic nullifies the efforts many governments made to reduce national deficits

Korea Development Institute (KDI) prospects, in its economic report issued in April 2020, that economic contraction and uncertainty have expanded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the post-pandemic economy is said to be the main theme for most economists and industry leaders, some critics expect completely different economics, and others see nasty recession coming. The problem is that these impacts of the coronavirus are undoing decade-long efforts by many governments to reduce national deficits because of the increased direct fiscal spending to rescue people and businesses in distress.

The post-pandemic era is dim for the shipbuilding industry

Most of all, the maritime industry has been hard hit by the disease to such an extent that the orders for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers to Korean shipyards have drastically dropped in the first quarter of this year in a stark contrast with the exponential orderbooks in 2019. For example, one executive director of Korean shipbuilding associations was quoted as saying that shipowners tend to show their sentiments to delay or avoid orders for new ships. As a result, new ship orders are globally plummeting by about 50 percent relative to the last year according to the BIMCO reports. These weak shipbuilding activities will heavily impact ship equipment manufacturers, classification societies, and other suppliers.

This sharp downturn of the shipbuilding industry has close relations with shipping demands for goods in the world. For instance, the outbreak has slowed shipping demands from China to other countries across every ship type including container ships, bulkers, and tankers. What is more serious is that no one knows to what extent the post-coronavirus pandemic would unfold in terms of global transport.

ⓒ Pulse

The Role of the Shipping Industry and Future Technology

ⓒ Flicker_UNCTAD

Korea’s effort to keep trade activities flowing despite the pandemic crisis

It should be, however, noted that amid this health crisis Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), mentioned that given the maritime transport industry’s critical role in the response to viruses, governments need to allow commercial ships to have access to ports, so that medical equipment, foods and raw materials should be timely supplied to countries in urgent needs. In the same vein, South Korea is also making every effort to prepare the maritime sector to support trade activities, publishing ‘Contingency Guidelines for Ships and Seafarers against Coronavirus (COVID-19)’ on April 6th, 2020. The guidelines are expected to serve all Korean-flagged ships, fishing vessels, and seafarers in providing them with various flexibilities to legal requirements.

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New technology in shipping may be realized sooner than expected due to coronavirus

This measure indicates that the resilience of the shipping industry is more important than ever to support import and export activities in the world amid a looming recession. However, the protection of seafarers, stevedores, and port workers should be assured against any infectious diseases. According to some futurists, this global spread of viruses may hint that the global health issue would move up the development of unmanned ship infrastructures sooner than anticipated. Social distancing may have to do with remote controlling and autonomous operating.

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