The challenges facing the shipping industry this year will be remarkably similar to those of 2019, with the U.S.-China trade war, Brexit and IMO 2020 continuing to have major impacts, according to Klaus Lysdal, vice president of operations at online forwarder iContainers.
"We will have to see what ends up happening with Brexit and how that affects European trades," he said. "The industry will also continue to adapt to the development of the tariff war. At least the industry as a whole is used to changing climates and usually adapts pretty quickly to any changes."
As for IMO 2020, he said carriers should already have everything in place. "So it's mainly just how the increased fuel cost will affect pricing and if carriers keep a united front on the fuel cost or if it becomes a strategy pricing tool for some of them," Lysdal added.
Aside from trade risks, iContainers believes more should be done about shippers who mis-declare cargoes, often through inept practices.
"At this point, forwarders are still taking shippers' word for what's loaded in the container," he said.
"But from a forwarder's perspective, that tends to increase the risk that clients who are not well-versed in hazardous cargo and looking to ship it may come to forwarders. This puts the forwarder at risk, especially if the shippers' paperwork is not in order."
He warns that failure to tackle the problem before it worsens could ultimately lead to regulations that could increase shipping costs.
"Some of carriers' initial steps to increase fines may help," he added. "But if this persists, it could lead to mandatory manual inspections or similar moves to protect against these types of issues. Obviously something like that would lead to additional costs involved with shipping.
"But something has to happen as we cannot keep having fires happening on board vessels."