Current Challenges to the German Maritime Industry Seminar

As part of the Inauguration Day for the Class of 2022, the Friends of WMU Germany organized a special seminar on Current Challenges to the German Maritime Industry. The seminar was presented to WMU students and staff in the Sasakawa Auditorium, and was open to external guests via video conferencing. The seminar provided a broad overview of the maritime industry in Germany and was moderated by Mr Reinhard Klingen, Director General of the Central Services for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. 

The first of four speakers was Mr Norbert Brackmann, German Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Industry. In his introductory remarks regarding “Challenges and Opportunities in the Maritime Industry”, he noted the challenges the shipping industry has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, he highlighted the hardships seafarers have endured as a result of the pandemic, yet their commitment ensured that global supply chains were essentially uninterrupted throughout the pandemic. He maintained the maritime industry has its share of work to do in the fight against climate change saying, “Climate change regulation, mitigation and digitalization are going to be the defining issues of the next two decades. We must harness these trends in the interest of a strong and productive global maritime industry.” He also emphasized the importance of global cooperation to develop joint responses to global issues and to set the stage for a fair global competitive environment.

Mr Ralf Nagel, CEO of the German Shipowners Association presented on the topic of “Human Capital is the Main Driver of Shipping.” He noted that the shipping industry is a truly global industry, therefore national approaches and national thinking will not help to manage current challenges in the shipping sector. He highlighted climate change and digitalization as significant challenges for the shipping industry, stressing the importance of using the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as a guideline to keep the industry on track. He recognized the important contribution of WMU in this respect through educating the next generation of maritime and ocean leaders.

Mr Gunther Bonz, President of the Port of Hamburg Business Association spoke about “Changes in International Shipping - Challenges and Opportunities for Ports and Terminals.” He discussed the implications for ports resulting from the exponential increase in size of container ships and their capacity. In order to accommodate larger vessels, ports need to be prepared with the appropriate infrastructure, which consequently is a major expense. Significant challenges to ports today include unpredictable peaks, the need for investments and accommodating labour shifts, as well as ensuring adequate terminal space, hinterland and superstructure to support the supply chain. Although the shipping industry is undertaking significant efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, Mr Bonz posed the question as to whether we are on the right track in terms of priorities saying, “All efforts and savings of the private terminal operators are lost and wasted if the corresponding public infrastructure does not perform.”

The final speaker for the seminar was Ms Petra Mankhe, Managing Director of the Society for Marine Technology, who delivered her remarks via video conferencing on the subject of “Maritime Technology for a Sustainable Development of the Seas and Oceans”. Looking at how the blue economy can contribute to the European Green Deal objectives, she noted that a shift to sustainability will open up opportunities for new jobs and businesses. Ms Mankhe highlighted that marine cross-section technologies are of great importance linking energy, traffic, food, and raw materials through the maritime industry. She emphasized that climate change is an overriding concern that calls for sustainable use of the oceans through constructive, fact-based knowledge transfer to which measurements are key to close knowledge gaps. 

After the seminar, the delegation from Germany met with students in the Class of 2021 and 2022 who are currently sponsored by Germany. The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany has supported WMU for many years. As the second largest provider of fellowships, the Federal Government and partners in the German maritime industry have supported more than 300 students. Among the maritime leaders financed by Germany to study at WMU is Mr. Kitack Lim, the current Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization.

To learn more about the Friends of WMU Germany, click here.

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